I’m in a bit of a rush this morning, so this already intentionally spartan series will be extra light today. My apologies, but also, I do not apologize.
Perhaps in the end all the off days, as frustrating as they’ve felt, have been a blessing for this team. They have allowed for as few games as possible missed by Ben Gamel, Nelson Cruz, and Mike Zunino. With April’s final off day happening today, the reinforcements are arriving precisely when the Mariners need them most.
It’s a credit to the team they survived the opening stretch without calamity. A poor start doesn’t doom a season, but can make it very difficult for all but the most talented teams to overcome. You’ll recall that last year’s team, after a 2-8 start, went 76-76 the rest of the way. Flip that start around, and the Mariners win 84 games.
It’s still incredibly early, but something is about to break, and we’re going to learn a lot about the 2018 Mariners between now and May 1. They are about to play seventeen straight games, and the next ten against the AL West. They will use a fifth starter for the first time this year. Their bullpen depth will be tested in a way it has not up til now. There will be days when Edwin Diaz will throw two straight, or three of four days, and Scott Servais’ ability to weigh the short and long term will be heavily tested.
Breaks, of course can be good or bad. What the Mariners need, what they have desperately needed for so, so, so long, is to have a good player or two turn into one of the best players at his position. I just mentioned Edwin Diaz, and it’s not an accident. The Mariners may very well be on the verge of having one of the best relief pitchers alive.
Diaz’s stuff, of course, has always been plus plus. But youth and/or consistent command has largely held him back from true greatness. Major league hitters are very, very good and very, very smart. If they don’t think you can throw strikes, they will wait you out. Now, at least thus far, Diaz’s command has been present almost the entire year. The results are comical. He has a 66.7 K%. He has not walked a man, or allowed a run. Only on Opening Day did he seem threatened by the demons of youth, hitting two batters and balking the tying run into scoring position. Otherwise, he has been God’s Righteous Justice made manifest, and all have sinned.
The Mariners are 6-4. They have staved off catastrophe, and are about to get far more healthy. To surprise, they need breaks. They may just be on the verge of getting a big one at the back end of their bullpen. But seventeen straight days of games will test them, and teach us a lot. The season is about to kick off in earnest, and we’re going to learn a whole lot. Something’s about to break.