Sorting Out The Tacoma Bullpen Candidates

It’s time for our final spring training positional preview, in which we look at the 2018 Tacoma Rainiers bullpen candidates.

We’ve done these previews for at least five years now, and the bullpen section is always kind of silly. There are just so many players who could end up being in the Rainiers bullpen.

It starts at the top, with the big league club, and there is always a spring training battle for a spot or two (or some years, three or four) in the Seattle bullpen.

Mix in the injury issues that often crop up with pitchers, and you begin to realize how fluid the whole situation is.

I think it’s easiest to lump the relievers into groups. These are my generalizations and may not reflect the opinions of Scott Servais and Jerry Dipoto.


These relievers appear to be locks to make the big league bullpen, if healthy.

  • Edwin Diaz
  • Juan Nicasio
  • James Pazos
  • David Phelps
  • Marc Rzepczynski
  • Nick Vincent
  • Tony Zych

If they go with an eight-man bullpen, which they probably will, they’ll add one more.


  • Shawn Armstrong
  • Marco Gonzales

These two cannot be optioned to Tacoma without going through waivers, giving them a leg up to make the big league team. Gonzales is battling for the fifth starter role in the rotation, but if someone beats him out he’ll end up in the bullpen (hard to imagine the M’s prized trade acquisition getting DFA’d). Armstrong was acquired from Cleveland and is under pressure to make the big league team; spring training results will be particularly meaningful for him.


  • Ariel Miranda

Miranda is competing for the No. 5 starter role, but what if he doesn’t get it? The M’s will have to decide if they want him working as a long man in the major league bullpen, or if they prefer to have him starting games in Tacoma. The recent injury to Erasmo Ramirez may affect Miranda’s situation.


  • Dan Altavilla
  • Chasen Bradford
  • Sam Moll
  • Mike Morin
  • Nick Rumbelow

These relievers are all on the 40-man roster, and as far as I can tell have minor league options remaining. Each of them has appeared in the majors – Morin has three years of service – and each of them will be given an opportunity to show their stuff in the Cactus League. Each of them will pitch for Tacoma if they don’t make the big league team.


  • Ryan Cook
  • Ryan Garton
  • Johendi Jiminian

Very different backgrounds here, but all three have been invited to big league camp. Cook is an established major leaguer coming off of major elbow surgery; not sure where he stands physically right now but he’s been out for two years. Garton spent time in the majors with Tampa and Seattle the last two seasons, and figures to be a Rainiers reliever unless he dominates in Arizona and makes the big club. Jiminian has limited Triple-A experience and could go to Tacoma or Double-A Arkansas – but the organization is curious to see how he looks at the highest level in spring training.


  • Christian Bergman
  • Casey Lawrence

These are good Triple-A starters and returning Tacoma Rainiers who have previously pitched as starters and long relievers when in the majors. Both are non-roster invitees to big league camp.


  • Pat Light

Light finished the 2017 season with Tacoma and remains in the organization. He’ll report to minor league camp next week.


  • Matt Festa
  • Art Warren

This duo is joined at the hip. They both had breakout seasons at Class-A Modesto in 2017. They went to the prospect-laden Arizona Fall League as a pair, and reports were positive. They have been invited to big league camp. Might a strong Cactus League showing by one (or both) result in a leap over Double-A and an assignment with Tacoma? Stay tuned and find out.


  • Darin Gillies

Nobody ever talks about him, but the Arizona State product has a career 2.97 ERA since being selected in the tenth round of the 2015 draft. Gillies had a 3.32 ERA in 59 innings last year at Double-Arkansas and could be in line for a promotion.


  • Scott Kuzminsky

The Puyallup High School graduate toiled for three years in independent leagues before the Mariners rescued him late last season. He appeared in nine games – seven with short-season Everett, and two for Tacoma. He has only one month of affiliated experience, but his age (26) is Double-A or Triple-A appropriate.

That’s our look at the Rainiers relief candidates – and I apologize if I missed anyone, which is always a possibility in this large category.

The exhibition games started today. We’ll be back with a new post on Tuesday to see what we learned from the first four Cactus League games.


  • Ryan Divish has a fun story on local product Matt Hague, who we expect will play for Tacoma this year. The Kentwood High School and UW product grew up idolizing Edgar Martinez, and now Edgar is his hitting coach in spring training.
  • Divish also caught up with Hisashi Iwakuma. It sounds like ‘Kuma is working very hard on this comeback, and we may see the final stages of the process at Cheney.
  • Potential Rainiers outfielder Braden Bishop (maybe mid-season if he does well at Double-A?) has done massive work raising money to help fight Alzheimer’s disease. Matt Calkins has the story.
  • Pitcher Rob Whalen revealed that he left the Rainiers last year due to depression. He has gotten help, and is back in spring training. Good story from Greg Johns.
  • The Mariners made the Junior Lake signing official and he is now a Potential Rainier.
  • Greg Johns looks at a couple of dark horses to make the Mariners opening day roster.
  • The Mariners have not announced who the opening day starter will be, so the Seattle Times columnists had a mini-debate. Matt Calkins said it should be their best pitcher, James Paxton. Larry Stone writes that Felix Hernandez has earned the assignment.
  • Looks like the Mariners are going to open the 2019 season with a couple of games in Tokyo against the A’s.
  • Umpires get promotions, too: longtime PCL umpire Stu Scheurwater is now a full-time major league umpire.


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