Spring training foreshadow? The 2012 Seattle Mariners bullpen

Where’s Wild Thing when you need him?

It’s only the second game of the season, and the Seattle Mariners bullpen is already looking shaky. They completely imploded Thursday morning, giving up 3 runs—on 3 home runs— across 1.2 innings.

With such an ugly game, against such a weak defense, it’s hard not to worry.

Here are five more reasons why we should be scared.

1. No Setup Man

The M’s complete lack any kind of setup man. They’re relying on Shawn Kelley and Tom Wilhelmsen in that role, with George Sherrill ready to support.

Kelley has always looked to have good stuff, but it’s never transferred to the MLB level. At 27, this is a make or break season for him. Wilhelmsen was great in Wednesday’s game, but the 28-year old has never had much of a ceiling.

Sherrill is a total pipe dream. He had a bounce back 2011, but that was pitching for the Braves in a weak hitting NL East.

2. Where’s the Swingman?

The back end of the Mariners rotation is not designed to eat up innings. Blake Beaven, Hector Noesi and Kevin Millwood pitched a combined 207.2 innings last season. With Beaven, 23, and Noesi, 25, coming off their first seasons as big league pitchers it’s likely their innings are limited.

Shawn Kelley, Seattle Mariners

We all looked like this after the Cespedes home run, Shawn Kelley

This means the bullpen is going to be putting in a lot of time, and they don’t have anyone who represents a good swingman. Charlie Furbush is as close as it gets, and he was 3-9 with a 6.38 ERA last season.

3. Can we Trust Brandon League?

Brandon League looked fantastic during spring (0.00 ERA through 4 innings) and during Wednesday’s win (1 IP, 1 Save, 2 Ks). But this kid wasn’t exactly Mr. Consistent last season.

He compiled 37 saves in 2011, but had a May where he went 0-4 with a 6.92 ERA giving up 16 hits across 13 innings. Ouch.

4. Spring Training was Enlightening… in a Bad Way

Outside of League and Kelley, no Mariner’s bullpen arm posted an ERA under 3.00. Steve Delabar and Tom Wilhemsen posted identical 5.40 ERAs.

Yeah, not a lot of hope coming from spring.

5. Don’t Expect Minor League Relief

There’s not much down in the farm if the bullpen goes south. Of course there are top pitching prospects Taijuan Walker, James Paxton and Danny Hultzen, but those three are starters.

They need to use their time in the high minors to stretch out their innings through starts, not by coming out of the pen.


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