The Hits Just Keep On Coming
The news on the pitching front continues to worsen for the Seattle Mariners who seem lost at sea in the midst of an eight game losing streak. Injuries, youth, defensive miscues, and flat out incompetence have all contributed to the mess the M’s hurlers find themselves currently in.
Let’s break out the mess to see if we can find any clarity.
The Mariners have lost 4 starting pitchers to injury in 2014 and the season is not even a month old yet. Hisashi Iwakuma, Taijuan Walker, Blake Beavan and James Paxton have all fallen to the DL for a variety of issues.
Iwakuma is most likely the closest to returning to the rotation. In one of the more bizarre injuries you’ll ever hear about, Iwakuma got his finger caught in a fence while practicing his pitching motion. The snagged finger lead to him starting the season on the DL.
The good news for Iwakuma is that he’s ready to do a couple of rehab starts. If all goes well he could be back in a week or so.
Mariners top prospect Taijuan Walker continues to work towards his return to the rotation. Walker somehow wound up with a sore throwing shoulder during spring training. Officially, Walker’s injury is a shoulder impingement.
He rested for a couple weeks and began a rehab program.
He progressed enough in rehab to make a start in the minors and now the injury bug has flailed it’s evil head again. Walker was set to make one final rehab start in the minors. He was scratched at the last minute because he could not get his arm loose when he started his pregame stretching.
Now he’s been shut down again and it will be at least a couple more weeks before the Mariners even think about giving him another try.
Southpaw James Paxton might be in the worst shape of the injured starters. He’s been diagnosed with a lat strain. The scary part is that those types of injuries often wind up being more severe problems.
Stephen Pryor has sat out a year for the Mariners with a lat strain that wound up being a tear.
The good news for Paxton is that MRIs show no tears.
The Mariners set a 6-8 week timetable for his return beginning from his injury date of April 8. That means we most likely won’t see Paxton back in action until mid to late May.
Blake Beavan was called up from AAA to make a start because of the 3 other guys we just discussed. In his lone start he had a rough couple of innings and then settled down. He was cruising along and was at just 60 pitches when something went wrong in his shoulder.
Beavan has been diagnosed with the same issue as Walker- shoulder impingement. It will depend greatly on the status of the other 3 starters if Beavan will get a chance to start again when he recovers.
Roenis Elias and Erasmo Ramirez won the jobs in spring training to start for the M’s with Walker and Iwakuma on the shelf. While they were impressive in the spring, their youth and inexperience has started to show in their regular season starts.
Both Ramirez and Elias seem to be suffering from a case of “I don’t trust my stuff completely” syndrome. This is quite a common condition in a major league pitcher who’s just made it to the show for the first time.
The condition leads pitchers to fall behind to the majority of hitters they are facing. When they do get ahead in the count they tend to nibble instead of going right after the hitter.
The result is a pitcher who might not necessarily give up a bunch of runs every single start but a guy who definitely can’t pitch very many innings because his pitch count gets too high too early.
Unfortunately the only cure for this condition is experience, a Manager’s patience, and time. The Mariners have the first two but with the losing streak continuing they may not have much more time to work through this with these guys.
It’s not entirely the fault of the pitchers when it comes to throwing too many pitches early in a game. The Mariners defense hasn’t exactly helped them a whole lot as of late.
The Mariners have given up a number of unearned runs as of late, including 4 Monday night to the Astros. Kyle Seager dropped the ball at 3rd base which allowed the runner at 3rd to score on a sac fly on the next pitch.
Also getting into the butter-glove act was Mike Zunino who allowed a run to score on a passed ball. Brad Miller kicked one around a few nights ago that loaded the bases and wound up costing the M’s the game. Dustin Ackley , Abraham Almonte and Stefen Romero all misplayed balls in the outfield recently.
While not every one of these plays goes down as an error on the scorecard, everyone of these plays does further wear out the Mariner’s pitching staff in terms having to throw more pitches because the out was not made correctly the first time.
When it comes to dealing with a pitcher who just doesn’t have it anymore for whatever reason I thought Lloyd McClendon and Jack Zduriencik demonstrated an extremely fast hook early in the season. Hector Noesi threw 2 pitches in his first outing and gave up a walk off, two run home run. The next day he was released.
Somebody please explain to me why McClendon and Zduriencik have failed to follow threw in similar fashion when it comes to Tom Wilhelmsen.
To put it mildly, Wilhelmsen has been awful. In his last 6 innings pitched he’s been in 5 different games. He’s given up 6 hits and 5 walks. His ERA is over 7 in that span. Why does this continue night after night?
I was as big a fan of Wilhelmsen as anyone when he caught on with the M’s as a highly successful closer what seems like forever ago.
The guy has A+ stuff. He can approach triple digits with his fast ball and his curve ball is enough to make phenom, Mike Trout look silly. But those days are all but gone right now.
What’s The Cure?
The cure is certainly not any one thing right now for the Mariners.
As far as Wilhelmsen goes he has options. Send him back to AAA again. See if he can get this sorted out. I’d love to see him put it back together but right now he’s Noesi 2.0. I just can’t bear to watch it anymore when he charges in from the bullpen.
They need to get Iwakuma back in a week or so as planned and hopefully Walker in week or two after that. Maybe they can take some of the pressure off the younger guys.
Those younger guys, Elias and Ramirez need to trust themselves and throw strikes more often.
The defense needs to take a deep breath and play the way they are capable of playing.
As for the fans, it’s hard to hear, but you are just going to have to be patient and wait this one out.