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Mariners shut down talented pitching prospect Logan Gilbert for the season

UPDATED: Wed., Sept. 4, 2019, 10:52 p.m.

Seattle Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto talks to reporters in Seattle on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2017, at the Mariners’ annual preseason briefing before the start of spring training. (Ted S. Warren / AP)
Seattle Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto talks to reporters in Seattle on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2017, at the Mariners’ annual preseason briefing before the start of spring training. (Ted S. Warren / AP)
By Ryan Divish Seattle Times

NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – As the sweat-drenched Arkansas Travelers exited the field at Dickey-Stephens Park on Wednesday afternoon for the refuge of their air-conditioned clubhouse, Andy McKay, the Mariners director of player development, walked into the dugout and motioned to general manager Jerry Dipoto.

It was time for a conversation with talented pitching prospect Logan Gilbert that wasn’t going be particularly enjoyable. Dipoto, along with McKay and other members from the player-development staff, had made the decision to end Gilbert’s season and not allow him to pitch for the Travelers in the Texas League playoffs, which started later that night.

“He’s not going to be happy about this,” Dipoto said. “And that’s a good thing. He’s a very a competitive guy and I know he wants to win this championship, so us shutting him down will leave a little sting there.”

Gilbert knew something might be up when he was summoned.

“I kind of thought I knew what was coming,” he said. “I listened to what they had to say and their reasoning behind it. Of course, I trust them. I wanted to be out there. They knew I wanted to be out there.”

And not being out there gnawed at him.

“Getting into the playoffs after 140 games, there’s nothing I wanted to do more than just get out there and compete,” he said.

Seattle had planned to let Gilbert pitch in the postseason, possibly even start him for Game 1 of the first-round series vs. the Tulsa Drillers. But he labored though his last outing last Thursday, pitching just 4 1/3 innings and allowing five runs on seven hits in 100-degree temperatures in Corpus Christi, Texas. And in the bullpen session that followed the start, there were concerns of body and arm fatigue. Instead of risking possible injury, the Mariners decided to shut him down.

“In summary, his season could have not gone any better, and that’s why we don’t want to push the envelope here,” Dipoto said. “With 135 innings pitched – and that was our goal – we don’t see the need to push him out there. While we want to win a championship here, we want to remember the big picture. Unless something goes wildly wrong, we see Logan pitching in the big leagues next year, and to take a chance here and pushing him when he’s tired, that’s not what we are here for.”

Gilbert will attend the Mariners’ high-performance camp and then prepare for a different kind of spring training.

“It’s just smart for us to take it easy with Logan and to back off the gas,” Dipoto said. “We’ll see him in major-league spring training in February and we’ll see what happens from there.”

The Mariners tried to slot out the innings and starts to give him a chance in the postseason, but Gilbert has been so efficient and successful that he reached that number earlier than expected.

“He throws a ton of strikes, he misses bats, he’s got a great feel of who he is and how he gets his outs,” Dipoto said. “He’s a very cerebral guy. He probably spends as much time poring through the information on how to affect what he’s doing without losing sight of being a teammate. You can get lost in one and not pay attention to the other.”

It’s been a quick climb through the organization ranks for Gilbert, who was the Mariners’ first-round pick in 2018, picked 14th overall out of Stetson University. The Mariners were going to limit his usage in what was supposed be his first professional season due to a heavy college workload, but a case of mononucleosis shut down his 2018 season before it started.

After attending the Mariners’ high-performance camp last offseason and early minicamp this spring, he made his professional debut with Class A West Virginia and dominated. The Mariners knew he was probably too advanced for the Low-A South Atlantic League but wanted to ease him into his first full season.

Gilbert made five starts, posting a 1-0 record and a 1.59 ERA with 36 strikeouts and walked six in 22 2/3 innings. Opposing hitters batted .118 with a .416 on-base plus slugging percentage against him.

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