Mariners relievers getting it done
Bullpen pitchers have come together to form strong unit
SEATTLE -- The long days in the desert are behind the unsung members of the Mariners bullpen, and their numbers are beginning to show it.
"Spring Training was really long," said right-hander Roy Corcoran. "We couldn't wait to get out of there."
It's a good thing for their team that they did, too. Corcoran, Shawn Kelley, David Aardsma and Mark Lowe, whose ERAs, respectively, were 11.00, 7.71, 6.59 and 5.79 in Cactus League play, have gotten a lot better once the bright lights of the regular season have come on.
Corcoran has two holds, is 1-0 and has a 4.50 ERA. Kelley (four innings pitched), Aardsma (5 2/3 innings) and Lowe (4 1/3 innings) haven't been scored upon yet. All have appeared in key situations in games, and all have helped the bullpen as a whole rank first in the American League in ERA with a 2.34 mark (nine earned runs in 34 2/3 innings).
For guys who seemingly came out of nowhere, it's something to be proud of.
"It's a combination of reasons why we've turned it around from spring until now," said Kelley, who hadn't pitched higher than Double-A before making the Opening Day bullpen as a non-roster invitee.
"Some of the guys who have been here and knew success at this level were probably working on some things during the spring, maybe a third or fourth pitch. Some guys just had a bad inning from time to time, and when you're not throwing a lot of innings in the spring, that can translate to crooked numbers.
"For me, I threw the ball well every time out and probably got a few tough breaks, but [manager Don Wakamatsu] and the coaches kept ensuring me that I was pitching well. That definitely helped."
Corcoran, meanwhile, pitches to contact and tries to get ground balls. His sinker flattened out in the dry Arizona air, he said, and his efforts to change that effect were unsuccessful.
"I'm dependent on movement," he said. "You start manipulating the ball down there to try to get movement, and it can be a tough environment to pitch in. I'll just say that it was a rough Spring Training, man. I'm just glad it's over.
"I was battling myself all spring. And the more you want something, the harder it is to get, so sometimes you just need to relax and let it come to you. But after a spring like that, I'm glad they believed in me."
Corcoran said one of the keys to this bullpen is the fact the pitchers believe in each other despite the fact they don't have much Major League experience. Their 24-year-old closer, Brandon Morrow, who has a little more than a year of big league service time, believes in them, too.
"They haven't let the [Major League] stage scare them," Morrow said. "They're not pitching timidly. They're going out there and going right at guys, and it's been fun to watch."
And as far as those spring numbers go, consider them forgotten.
"Everyone gets crooked numbers put up against them in Spring Training," Morrow said. "Nobody expects anybody to be perfect all the time.
"What matters is they're pitching well now, and this is when the numbers count."
Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.