SEATTLE – Can you name all 40 pitchers who have appeared in a game for the Mariners this season?
The average fan might get 20 to 25 of the 40, tied for the most pitchers used by a team in a season in major-league history.
The average Mariners beat writer could get 30 to 35 if given enough time and motivation.
How about the Mariners’ pitching coach?
“Absolutely not,” joked Mel Stottlemyre Jr. “There are times when I can’t even spell my own name. I still can’t spell Rzep’s (Marc Rzepczynski’s name). To be honest, I don’t think I could. Not even if I sat down with a piece of paper.”
Perhaps one of the relievers who shuttled between Triple-A Tacoma and Seattle for much of the season could do it?
“No, I can’t,” rookie Emilio Pagan said. “I think if I had a sheet with like 100 names, I think I could pick out the 40 guys.”
So let’s try the starting catcher, because he probably caught at least 85 percent of them?
“Probably not,” Mike Zunino said. “Definitely not off the top of my head. That’s a pretty tall order right there. If I started listing them on paper, maybe, yeah, I might be able to.”
And the man responsible for the constant roster moves that made it possible to reach 40?
“I’m pretty sure I could,” said general manager Jerry Dipoto, who has an unusually high recall of baseball information. “I might have to think hard. There were some in there that were a little obscure”
Try it yourself. Even with a list, you’ll probably find at least three of four names you don’t recognize or remember.
By using 40 pitchers, the Mariners tied the big-league record set by the Texas Rangers in 2014.
To steal a line from “A Few Good Men” … “one more and they get a free set of steak knives.”
Impressive? That’s not the word manager Scott Servais would use. This was out of necessity.
“I don’t know how impressive it is,” he said. “It’s actually disheartening that you have to go through that many to get through a season. Just knowing you can never plan for that.”
And the Mariners didn’t plan for it. Going into spring training, they were quite proud of the pitching depth behind their projected starting rotation of Felix Hernandez, James Paxton, Hisashi Iwakuma, Drew Smyly and Yovani Gallardo and a projected bullpen that was anchored by Edwin Diaz, Rzepcyzynksk, Nick Vincent and Steve Cishek.
But because of an almost-comical amount of injuries, extended usage and some ineffectiveness, the result was a parade of pitchers moving on and off the 25-man roster this season.
“It’s something you can never plan for,” Servais said.
Well, what can you plan for?
“Genuinely, we projected to use 10 or 11 starters because that’s about the league average in a normal year into today’s time of baseball,” Dipoto said. “With the actual number of pitchers, we don’t actually project a number. We are trying to go 16 to 18 deep, understanding your pitching staff runs from your top starter to the callups you’ll make as the season goes along. We’ve definitely doubled down on how many we’ve needed. And we did what we had to do to get through it.”
It took a perfect storm of injuries, some underperforming and a modified strategy regarding starters to reach 40.
“I don’t know how perfect it was,” Stottlemyre said wryly.
But it was something the Mariners had to weather.
“It’s something I do not wish on anybody,” Servais said. “But we’ve hung in there and we keep doing it.”
The 2014 Rangers, who set the rather dubious record, finished 67-95. The Mariners have hovered around .500 for much of the second half of the season and have been in the hunt for the second American League wild card.
“It’s actually kind of impressive to see so many guys come in and out and see where we are still at,” Zunino said. “It’s something you’d expect to see from a team a lot farther out of it than we are. It just shows the quality guys we’ve brought in there and how well we’ve been playing behind them.”
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