Everyone Is A Long Reliever

By now the cat is out of the bag, so we might as well put it out in the open: the Rainiers no longer have a starting rotation, and everyone on the pitching staff is a long reliever.

By orders from the Mariners front office, all Tacoma pitchers are being limited to roughly four innings per game, and lighter pitch counts.

This applies to season-long starting pitchers like Christian Bergman and Andrew Moore. And it applies to set-up relievers like Dean Kiekhefer and Evan Marshall, who are being stretched out.

The reason is because of the Mariners major league starting rotation. With all of the injuries and fill-in starters, Seattle does not have anyone in the rotation they can count on to last more than five innings in a start. This causes the potential need for a rested long reliever every single day.

So the major league team is using a long reliever for three or four innings, sending him down after the game, and calling up whoever is properly rested to pitch multiple innings the very next day from Tacoma.

The Rainiers are supposed to have two rested long relievers available for call-up every day.

Tacoma’s pitching “rotation” is loosely based on a system of piggy-backing long relievers. There was supposed to be some structure to it, but there have been so many call-ups and send-downs that it is in a constant state of flux.

It must be interesting for the pitchers, since seemingly anybody could get called up at a moment’s notice. But it comes with a caveat: players are getting sent down after pitching well in the majors. On Sunday, Bergman pitched four shutout innings for Seattle and not only was sent down after the game, but he also lost his 40-man roster spot. Yet he could get called up again in the near future.

This is the Mariners emergency plan to handle the starting pitching shortage in the big leagues, and it is creative. It can leave the Triple-A team short on pitching on any given day, but so far the organization has been good about sending in replacements from the lower levels when needed (Nathan Bannister last weekend in Tacoma, Kyle Hunter yesterday).

This could last for the remainder of the PCL season. With just 19 games to go, and no publicly known timetables for the return of Felix Hernandez or James Paxton or Hisahi Iwakuma, it seems likely the Rainiers pitching staff will be doing this until Labor Day.

RAINIERS ROUND-UP

Yesterday: Salt Lake mashed 16 hits and took down Tacoma, 9-5. Nolan Fontana, Eric Young Jr, and Tony Sanchez each had three hits for the Bees. Danny Muno had three hits for the Rainiers, including a pair of doubles.

Roster Moves: Yesterday the Mariners called up pitchers Andrew Albers and Sam Gaviglio, optioned pitchers Casey Lawrence and Thyago Vieira to Tacoma, and outrighted Christian Bergman to the Rainiers. Tacoma added pitcher Kyle Hunter from Double-A Arkansas yesterday.

Today: Tacoma (61-62) at Salt Lake (62-61), 6:05 Pacific.

Opponent Affiliation: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

Season Series: Salt Lake leads, 5-4.

Starting Pitchers: RHP Andrew Moore (1-3, 6.34) at LHP John Lamb (3-2, 6.90).

Hot RainiersShawn O’Malley has a seven-game hitting streak… Danny Muno has a five-game hitting streak including a pair of homers… Mike Marjama has eight RBI over his first seven games with Tacoma.

Look Out ForMichael Hermosillo has a ten-game hitting streak… ex-Rainiers outfielder Ramon Flores is 8-for-19 during a five-game hitting streak… Shane Robinson is batting .493 (35-for-71) with runners in scoring position.

Broadcast: The pregame show starts at 5:50 on South Sound Sports 850 AM. The broadcast also streams online via the TuneIn app – just click here.

PCL Scoreboard: Follow all Pacific Coast League games in real-time with links to Gameday screens right here.

Links:

PCL Game Reports:

  • Reno blew another ninth inning lead. The Aces led 6-5 at home against Sacramento, but the River Cats scored twice in the top of the ninth against Eric Davis and won, 7-6.
  • Las Vegas catcher Xorge Carrillo hit a grand slam to help the 51s beat Fresno, 6-5. Fresno and Reno are still tied in first place in the Pac-North.
  • Chris Huffman pitched well and El Paso took down Albuquerque, 4-2. Salt Lake now leads Albuquerque by 1.5 games and El Paso by two in the Pac-South.
  • Omaha welcomed Hunter Dozier back to the lineup and beat Oklahoma City, 1-0.
  • Chris Carter tripled, homered, and drove in five runs as Nashville took down Memphis, 6-5.
  • Colorado Springs and Iowa split a doubleheader in Des Moines.
  • Round Rock and New Orleans were rained out. Since both teams are eliminated from playoff contention, the game will not be made up.
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