Mariners Tidbit 9: The Second Bullpen Lefty

The bullpen situation has been a moderately interesting one this spring, as it would seem the Mariners have too many good, young arms and not enough spots to fit them all.  Working from our closer on down, the locks going into this year would appear to be:

  • Fernando Rodney
  • Danny Farquhar
  • Yoervis Medina
  • Tom Wilhelmsen
  • Charlie Furbush

With some really strong contenders in:

  • Dominic Leone
  • Carson Smith

Now, it appears that with James Paxton’s late start, and with the plethora of off-days gracing the calendar in April, the Mariners might go the first couple weeks with an 8-man bullpen.  If the seven guys I’ve listed above are all in, a good argument can be made that the 8th man would be another lefty.  While Furbush has been solid at times, he’s also been frighteningly inept at others.  He looks like a lock to make the team as far as I can tell, but should he be?

Tyler Olson got an invite this spring and has made the most of it.  He split time between A & AA last year as a starter and looked to be pretty effective.  These first couple weeks, he’s been a bullpen arm – going 6 innings across 4 appearances, giving up 0 runs and only 1 hit while striking out 8 – and with those numbers has made quite a name for himself.  I don’t know if the team is giving up on him being a starter, or is just so focused on the short term that we’re willing to stunt his growth in the bullpen right now, but either way he could be a great help to us this year.

David Rollins is our Rule 5 guy who ALSO hasn’t pitched beyond the AA level.  He’s appeared 5 times, going 5.1 innings, giving up 0 runs, 2 hits, and striking out 6.  I would argue that he’s got the edge over Olson just because if we don’t keep him on our 25-man roster, we have to give him back to Houston.

But, let’s look at it this way:  why not keep Olson and Rollins and say Fuck Off to Furbush?

That might be a little drastic – and a bit premature – but if I were running this team, I’d have Furbush on the shortest of leashes.  If he has options, my first priority would be to keep HIM in Tacoma and promote Olson and Rollins.  Guys are proving themselves at younger and younger ages nowadays, why couldn’t Olson & Rollins carry their share of the burden?

But, if Furbush doesn’t have any options (which, my hunch is, he doesn’t), then I suppose we’re beholden to keep him around, at least in the short term.  But, I’ll say this much:  to those of you who’d rather have Furbush around because he’s more experienced than two AA guys making the big leap to the Big Leagues, what has Furbush’s experience gotten him, exactly?  He’s the third-best lefty out of the bullpen in camp this year.  He’s the most prone to imploding and giving up the big inning.  He’s terrible at preventing inherited runners from scoring.  In short, you can’t count on the guy, because you never know if he’s going to be the guy hitting his spots and making batters look foolish, or the guy who grooves a meatball to a right-handed pinch hitter for a rocket double.

I’m going to be very upset if we lose out on Rollins just because Furbush has more Major League innings under his belt.  Luckily, for Rollins’ sake, Rafael Perez – the other veteran lefty bullpen option – has been dreadful.  Saying nothing of Joe Saunders, who’s as done as done can be.

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