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Mariners Notebook: Edwin Diaz remains closer but role will shift to get more work

Seattle Mariners catcher Mike Zunino, left, and closing pitcher Edwin Diaz share congratulations after the final out of a baseball game against the Texas Rangers on Friday, April 14, 2017, in Seattle. The Mariners won 2-1. (Elaine Thompson / Associated Press)
Seattle Mariners catcher Mike Zunino, left, and closing pitcher Edwin Diaz share congratulations after the final out of a baseball game against the Texas Rangers on Friday, April 14, 2017, in Seattle. The Mariners won 2-1. (Elaine Thompson / Associated Press)
By Bob Dutton Tacoma News Tribune

DETROIT – Edwin Diaz is about to shift gears in the Mariners’ bullpen. Oh, he’ll still be the closer in name, but manager Scott Servais is planning a more sabermetric approach – although not necessarily for sabermetric reasons.

“He needs to pitch,” Servais said. “I don’t just want to stick him down there and wait because he’s the closer. He is so young. It may depend on where we are in the game. He hasn’t pitched much lately at all.

“He might go five outs. He might go six outs. In a road game, don’t be shocked if he comes in there in the eighth inning of a tie game. I know it’s not the traditional closer role, but that kind of how I see using him.”

Servais’ plan includes using Diaz in high-leverage situations earlier in the game and letting someone else get the final three outs for the save.

“I’m just trying to manage the game,” Servais said. “If it’s a tie game or whatever, just put your best guys out there and extend the game as long as you can. Hopefully, your offense scores, and we have someone to get us the last three outs.

“That may not be Eddie Diaz because we’ve already used him. I want to do that instead of just leaving him down there. You don’t want to not get the game to the 10th inning because you kept your closer is fresh by having him just sit there.”

Diaz has pitched just six times this season – and hasn’t been particularly effective in allowing four runs and six hits in 6 2/3 innings for a 5.40 ERA. That includes a “get-work” inning Saturday in a loss at Oakland.

Part of the problem, Servais believes, is a lack of consistent work.

“He’s not the 29-, 30-year-old seasoned closer,” Servais said. “He’s 23. When he sits down there for four or five days, it’s hard to go out there and be on top of your game. He doesn’t have all of that experience yet.

“When he goes three or four days and doesn’t pitch, it’s a priority to get him in a game. I hope like heck it’s a tight game and we need him, but if we’re up by five, he may pitch.”

The key factor, Servais said, is not an inclination toward sabermetrics but rather the need for Diaz, at this stage in his career, to get regular work.

“I think all young pitchers are better that way,” Servais said. “If he was 23 years old and in Double-A, that’s how he’d be handled. When you’re in the big leagues, you want to do it a little bit different because it protects you.

“But I want to do what’s best for him and what’s best for the ballclub. He needs to pitch.”

Anticipated Roster Move

Shortstop Jean Segura is expected to be activated from the disabled list prior to Tuesday’s series opener in Detroit. He missed 12 games while recovering from a strained right hamstring suffered April 10 against Houston at Safeco Field.

Segura batted .313 with 10 hits in 32 at-bats over eight games prior to his injury. He went 1 for 11 in three weekend games at Double-A Arkansas while on a rehab assignment.

The Mariners have already cleared roster space for Segura by optioning utility infielder Mike Freeman to Triple-A Tacoma after Sunday’s game. Freeman was 2 for 18 in eight games after being recalled when Segura went on the disabled list.

Segura’s return also means Taylor Motter will return to his role as the roster utilityman. Motter batted .289 in 12 games as the club’s shortstop in Segura’s absence with six doubles, five homers and 12 RBIs.

Servais said Sunday that Motter will continue to see regular playing time in a variety of roles.

Aro Suspended

Right-handed reliever Jonathan Aro, who is currently on the Triple-A Tacoma roster, received a 50-game suspension for an unspecified violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.

Aro, 26, made 10 appearances in spring training, compiling a 6.57 ERA, but has not pitched this season since being reassigned March 31 to minor-league camp. He had a 2.48 ERA last season in 24 games at Tacoma.

Looking Ahead

Three things to note heading into Tuesday’s pitching matchup between right-hander Felix Hernandez (2-1, 3.65) and Detroit right-hander Jordan Zimmermann (1-1, 5.94):

  • Hernandez 9-3 with a 2.48 ERA in 15 career starts against the Tigers, including 5-2 and 3.06 in eight starts at Comerica Park. Zimmermann won his only previous start against the Mariners, which came in 2014 at Safeco Field while pitching for Washington.
  • Ian Kinsler has four homers in 82 career at-bats against Hernandez. He is batting just .232 (19 for 82) but has 12 walks for a .351 on-base percentage. The King won’t miss injured Miguel Cabrera (11 for 28 with two homers).
  • Segura is expected to be activated from the disabled list prior to Tuesday’s game – and he is 7 for 16 in his career against Zimmermann. Carlos Ruiz is 4 for 22.

Minor Details

Hi-A Modesto center fielder Braden Bishop went 3 for 5 in Sunday’s 7-1 victory at Visalia (Diamondbacks) for his third three-hit performance in his last four games.

Bishop, 23, has a 15-game hitting streak since going 0 for 6 in the season opener. His average is up to .377 with a .449 on-base percentage. Not bad for player previously better known for his defensive skills.

The Mariners selected Bishop in the third round of the 2015 MLB Draft after a standout career at Washington. He batted .273 last season in 104 games at Lo-A Clinton (63 games) and Hi-A Bakersfield (41).

Looking Back

It was 36 years ago Tuesday – April 25, 1981 – that manager Maury Wills sought to give his pitchers an edge by getting the grounds crew at the Kingdome to enlarge the batter’s box by making it one foot closer to the mound.

Oakland manager Billy Martin spotted the subterfuge and reported his suspicions to umpire Bill Kunkel. Wills received a two-game suspension.

On Tap

Detroit will be without first baseman Miguel Cabrera, who was placed on the 10-day disabled list after suffering a strained right groin muscle in Friday’s game at Minnesota.

The Tigers replaced Cabrera on their roster by recalling ex-Mariners catcher John Hicks from Triple-A Toledo. Hicks responded by going 5-for-10 in his first two games with six RBIs.

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