Mariners Insider

Mariners Q&A: Wilhelmsen to get a start? Butler as a trade target? More

Post by Bob Dutton / The News Tribune on June 5, 2014 at 6:56 am with 1 Comment »
June 6, 2014 7:23 am
Could reliever Tom Wilhelmsen draw a spot start for the Mariners? (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)
Could reliever Tom Wilhelmsen draw a spot start for the Mariners? (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — As noted in The News Tribune, the Mariners face a major rotation question in the coming days.

That issue also dominated the responses to our call late Wednesday on twitter for this question-and-answer session. Many were similar.


@joe_fann: spot start furbush?

My impression — and that’s all it is — is the Mariners might well opt for a “bullpen day” when the fifth spot in their rotation comes around Monday for their conclusion of their wraparound series at Tampa Bay.

But I don’t think it will be Charlie Furbush, whom manager Lloyd McClendon values in left-on-left match-ups. My guess is Tom Wilhelmsen is a more likely candidate.

It’s not ideal. The Mariners don’t have a true long reliever in their bullpen, but Wilhelmsen did throw 52 pitches on May 24 and has worked more than one inning in six of his last 12 appearances.

Such a move would likely mean a roster move to replace Ramirez with a reliever — probably lefty Lucas Luetge (since he’s on the roster).

McClendon hates “bullpen days.” All managers do. They typically burn down even a rested relief corps. And if a starter requires an early hook within a day or two of the “bullpen day,” the problem escalates.

But after watching Erasmo Ramirez last just three innings Tuesday in Atlanta — as a replacement for Brandon Maurer, who failed to complete five innings in his last three starts — the bullpen was getting burned anyway.

The Mariners lost Maurer’s last four starts prior to his demotion. And only a big rally, and six shutout innings from the bullpen, prevented a loss in Ramirez’s start.

The feeling is: If you’re going to burn the bullpen, do it from the beginning. That way, the Mariners are less likely to find themselves in an early hole.

As for other in-house options, there is little enthusiasm, at this point, to rush Taijuan Walker back into the rotation after he labored through 56 pitches in two innings Tuesday in a rehab start for Triple-A Tacoma.

Veteran right-hander Matt Palmer is a far more likely possibility. He was pulled Thursday after three innings and 56 pitches at Tacoma. He’s pitched well there, a 2-14 ERA in five starts in his recovery from an injury.

Right-hander Jordan Pries, who has also pitched well (2.79 ERA in nine starts) at Tacoma, is a long shot because he’s not on the roster, and the Mariners don’t believe he’s ready for regular big-league duty.

All clubs are hesitant to burn roster spots on prospects for the short term. And the Mariners still believe this will be a short-term thing. (Palmer is different; he’s not a prospect. If he is added to the roster and pitches well, fine. If he struggles, and is designated for assignment, losing him to another club wouldn’t sting as much.)

Looking a few weeks down the line, a strong outing next time from Walker could propel him back into the mix. Club officials are also hopeful lefty James Paxton will be ready to return by the end of the month.

So, yes, a bullpen day is a possibility. And, if so, I’m guessing Wilhelmsen.


@dajpearl: Any pitchers outside of the organization that could be considered for immediate help? Fly in Freddy Garcia from Taiwan?

I don’t see Freddy returning, but who knows? I do expect the Mariners to look hard at the waiver wire and in independent leagues for possibilities, but what I’m hearing from scouts is there’s not much out there.


@seatown_mariner: where’s Jeff Weaver when we need him?

   Gallows humor, I presume, since Weaver hasn’t pitched since 2010, when he compiled a 6.09 ERA as a reliever for the Dodgers.


@joeyvictor24: what possible acquisitions could you see the mariners making before the trade deadline?

The Mariners are still looking hard for a bat, preferably a right-handed bat, to bolster the middle of their order. The name that keeps popping up is Kansas City DH/1B Billy Butler.

The Mariners have long coveted Butler, who is currently struggling through the worst season of his career. The question is whether he’s in an extended slump or simply in the declining phase of his career.

Scouts say they don’t detect diminished bat speed. If so, that strengthens Butler’s value as a trade-acquisition target.

Either way, he should be available; the Royals signaled a willingness to trade him last winter and would likely have done so had they succeeded in signing free-agent outfielder Carlos Beltran.

The other big factor is money. Butler is currently making $8 million, and his contract contains a club option for 2015 at $12.5 million with a $1 million buyout. All of which has Kansas City looking to move him.

Getting Butler now would mean taking on about $6 million, counting the buyout. Of course, if he produces, the Mariners could pick up the option — or let him test the market and try to re-sign him for less.

Add this: The Royals are among the clubs that have shown interest in infielder Nick Franklin, whom the Mariners would like to move.

Look…it’s all a long way from happening. But if you want a possibility to chew on, one that would draw interest from both sides…Butler to the Mariners is probably at the top of the list.


@chuckjames919: who would win a mascot fight Sluggerrr or whoever the Mariners mascot is?

This, presumably, is my past catching up with me again because Sluggerrr is the lion who serves as the Royals’ mascot. And Sluggerrr has built quite a reputation as a ladies’ man (ahem, Mrs. Met). You can also find some “not suitable for work” stuff on Sluggerrr with a google search.

If it’s a dance-off, tough call — although I’m willing to yield here to people who actually know something about dancing.

But a fight?

Let me point out this in favor of Mariner Moose. That colorful phrase we use about being “p*ssed off?” I was once told by a U.S. Forest Ranger that it stems from this: A moose, when angry, urinates before it charges.

So I’m taking the Moose.


@bigduck1015: hear anything on Daniel carbonell?? Would be a good fit for the #mariners

The short answer is no.

Carbonell is an outfielder who defected from Cuba. The Mariners were among the clubs linked to him in mid-May. I asked a few club officials about him, and they generally dismissed the report.

That could be gamesmanship, of course. Anyway, there’s been little recent news about Carbonell, but it seems likely he’ll reach a deal with someone before the international signing period starts on July 2.

After July 2, any bonus given to Carbonell would count against a club’s bonus spending pool for international players.


@sirwill: What??? Bonds is available?  Why not?   ;)

This stems from a crack by manager Lloyd McClendon prior to Wednesday’s game at Atlanta when asked why Stefen Romero was batting cleanup. (Romero has two hits, by the way, in the 2-0 victory.)

McClendon said he chose Romero because, “Somebody’s got to hit there. We have to fill a lineup out. There’s no significance to it, trust me. I don’t have (Barry) Bonds. So it’s going to be Romero.”

A brilliant and incisive ballwriter did, at that juncture, point out that Bonds is available.


@ashevillesoxfan: What’s one bat and one arm in the Mariners system that’s surprised you this season in a good way?

It’s hard to top the jump by lefty Roenis Elias to the big leagues from Double-A Jackson. I could have written that last week before Elias pitched a three-hit shutout against Detroit.

Center fielder James Jones made a similar jump after just a handful of games at Triple-A Tacoma.



Leave a comment Comments → 1
  1. I hope they make that Billy Butler trade. He would be a good option to back up Smoak at first (or replace him altogether) and right handed dh. Could be a great addition for a second half run.

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