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June 1, 2012 at 9:00 AM

Whatever Stephen Pryor winds up doing, his promotion by Mariners is not a reward

There is a common misperception some folks have about players who are promoted to the big leagues this time of year. Especially in cases like today’s coming promotion by the Mariners of flame throwing relief pitcher Stephen Pryor.
Make no mistake: Pryor is not up here as a reward for a job well done.
He’s here because the Mariners have a bullpen problem and he’s their best internal solution. The problem being: not enough guys who can get right handed hitters out.
Tom Wilhelmsen can’t pitch three innings per night and with Brandon League dealing with command and pitch selection issues, he’s not someone you want to rely on late in games at the moment either. So, the team needs somebody else other than Wilhelmsen and Shawn Kelley they can deploy versus righties.
Especially heading into a series here in Chicago against the hottest team in baseball, one that features sluggers capable of turning games around in a big hurry.
Steve Delabar was somebody the Mariners hoped might be that hard throwing guy who can counteract the behemoths late. But he was simply not effective.
Enter Pryor.

Has the Mariners’ Justin Smoak turned things around at the plate?

Normally, you’d want to give a guy who was in Class AA a month ago a little more seasoning in AAA first. There is no real rush to get Pryor up here, since waiting a few weeks could delay his service clock and avoid Super 2 arbitration issues down the road.
Also, there are still a good two months before the Mariners have to trade League at the July 31 deadline. So, they could have kept Pryor in AAA another month, made sure his command was better-honed, then bring him up.
When I spoke to GM Jack Zduriencik on the field in Boston less than three weeks ago, he told me he didn’t want to rush Pryor. That he’d give him plenty of time to make sure he’d dominated the AAA level just as he did AA.
But things have since changed, clearly.
League began melting down in Cleveland right after that Boston series and Delabar kept giving up homers to right handers at an alarming rate. If Delabar can’t keep righties in the park, there’s no place for him on this team because the Mariners already have two bullpen lefties for situational and longer use.
So, now we’ve got Pryor. And it’s no coincidence he’s coming up just in time for this Chicago series. One way to counter another team’s sluggers is to blow some heat past them. And Pryor brings the heat, getting his fastball up to 100 mph on occasion. That kind of raw power can make up for a lot of missed location.
It’s no guarantee, mind you. You’ll remember all the issues another 100 mph guy, Dan Cortes, experienced when he couldn’t find his command at the big league level.
I expect to see him start in some early, seventh inning roles. Maybe even the sixth depending on how well the starter does. After that, he could be moved up depending on how he fares. But he won’t be the closer right away. That’s Wilhelmsen’s duty for now.
So, we’ll see what happens. But make no mistake, Pryor is here because he is badly needed. It’s not a reward. No need to compare him to other potentially “deserving” prospects as I’ve seen some people do already. There won’t be other promotions timed with this move. The time for rewards is in the second half, after the trade deadline. In this case, the only one getting a reward will be the Mariners if Pryor can get guys out.



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