A day after getting blasted for seven runs in just 1 1/3 innings pitched, lefty Garrett Olson is likely on his way out of Seattle’s starting rotation. Olson’s impending departure creates yet another hole in the Mariners’ already-thin starting five, which is little more than a trio these days.
Beyond Felix Hernandez, Erik Bedard, and Jarrod Washburn, the M’s currently have no other starting pitchers on the active roster (assuming Olson’s starting days are behind us).
Prior to the All-Star break, the team demoted starters Brandon Morrow and Jason Vargas to Triple-A so they could continue throwing through the mini-vacation. While it appears likely that Vargas may return to the bigs in a short period of time, Morrow may be looking at more of an extended stay in Tacoma.
That limits the number of options available to fill the two vacant starting spots.
We’d like to see the team go old school and fill out a four-man staff the rest of the year (so as to maximize the effectiveness of the Big Three), but we know that probably won’t happen. So here’s a breakdown of the candidates for spots four and five in the soon-to-be-revamped quintet:
One year ago, David Aardsma was a middle reliever for the Boston Red Sox who was most notable for being the first name in the alphabetical listing of Major League Baseball players.
A 6’4″, hard-throwing righthander, Aardsma had never recorded a save, nor been asked to assume the role of late-inning relief specialist.
A year later, Aardsma has become one of baseball’s better closers as a Seattle Mariner, posting 13 saves in 14 opportunities while maintaining a 1.74 ERA in the process. In 32.1 IP, the 27-year-old has struck out 39 batters, relying heavily on a mid-90’s fastball to overpower opposing batters.
Ten years ago, Russell Branyan was one of the top prospects in all of professional baseball.
Blessed with prodigious power from the left-hand side, Branyan was a Bunyanesque slugger with annual 40-homer potential who was destined to become a fixture in the middle of some lucky team’s batting order for years to come.
He made his major league debut on September 26, 1998. Only 22 years of age at the time, Branyan went 0-4 with two strikeouts in his brief taste of the big leagues. Over the course of the next two seasons, Branyan would strike out 95 more times while playing in only 78 major league games.