SEATTLE — It figures to be a busy few hours for the Mariners prior to Friday’s series opener against St. Louis as they seek to refresh a tired bullpen through a series of roster moves.
"We’re in dire need of fresh arms," general manager Jerry Dipoto admitted, "if even just to allow the current ’pen guys to reset after (Thursday), not to mention the last three weeks."
The Mariners chewed through their bullpen for 9 2/3 innings in Thursday’s loss at Detroit after starter Adrian Sampson exited because of an elbow injury before throwing a pitch in the first inning.
Vidal Nuno, Edwin Diaz and closer Steve Cishek each threw 30 or more pitches. Nuno replaced Sampson as the starter and threw 68. The only reliever who didn’t pitch was Mike Montgomery, who worked 3 1/3 innings on Wednesday night.
The Mariners were already positioned to make a roster move Friday to promote just-acquired lefty Wade LeBlanc as a replacement for ailing Taijuan Walker in the rotation.
Now, they probably also need at least two relievers.
This is speculative, as of early Friday morning, but this is what looms as the likeliest scenario. Again, this is speculative. There are other possibilities.
***LeBlanc must be added to the 25-man and 40-man rosters — basically the active playing roster and the organizational roster. He was acquired late Tuesday from Toronto in a trade for cash or a player to be named later.
The Mariners gained a 40-man spot Thursday when Triple-A outfielder Boog Powell received an 80-game suspension after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs.
That suspension means Powell is placed on the restricted list and is no longer counted against the Mariners’ 40-man limit.
The Mariners re-signed veteran reliever Tom Wilhelmsen earlier this week and then immediately placed him on optional waivers for the purpose of sending him to Tacoma for some fine-tuning.
Wilhelmsen had not pitched since June 13 at Texas before working one inning Thursday at Detroit. Optional waivers are revokable, which is why rival clubs rarely place a claim.
The 48-hour period for possible claims expires Friday. While the Mariners aren’t required to send Wilhelmsen to the minors if he clears waivers, they are still expected to do so.
And doing so would create a spot on the 25-man roster for LeBlanc.
***Look for the Mariners to add two more pitchers from Tacoma to bolster their bullpen. The likeliest candidates are lefty reliever David Rollins and right-handed starter Donn Roach.
While Rollins threw 26 pitches Wednesday in a two-inning appearance for Tacoma, he should be available for tonight’s game. The issue with him is his recent recall and subsequent return to the minors.
Rollins pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings on June 17 at Boston in a one-day stay before getting sent back to the Rainiers. Rules don’t allow players optioned to the minors to return for 10 days — unless they replace a player put on the disabled list.
Well…the Mariners have such a candidate in Sampson.
***Roach, 26, is 4-4 with a 4.26 ERA in 14 starts at Tacoma — but he’s been terrific lately, compiling a 2.04 ERA in his last eight starts. He is also rested; he hasn’t pitched since June 19. That makes him an ideal long-relief candidate.
The issue with Roach is finding space on 25-man and 40-man rosters. The latter shouldn’t be a problem because the Mariners can simply shift reliever Tony Zych from the 15-day to the 60-day disabled list.
Players on the 60-day list don’t count against the 40-man limit. It would amount to a paper move with Zych, who hasn’t pitched since May 1 because of tendinitis in his rotator cuff. He already almost to the 60-day limit.
The interesting twist is determining who gets booted from the 25-man roster. Nuno and Diaz have options remaining, but the Mariners appear reluctant to lose either one for the 10-day period on optioned players.
Another possibility is a move involving outfielder Nori Aoki, who has been limping around the clubhouse in recent days after fouling a ball off of his foot.
The Mariners could choose to place Aoki on the disabled list to allow him to recuperate. They could also option him to the minors, which would effectively mean a shorter rest — 10 days instead of 15.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners