When right-hander Matt Wisler makes his first relief appearance, which will more than likely come during the three-game series against Oakland that begins Friday, he will become the 35th pitcher the Seattle Mariners have used during the first half.
Wisler was acquired from the Padres on Thursday in exchange for cash after being designated for assignment on June 29. He reported to Seattle on Friday as the Mariners parted ways with another reliever in Mike Wright, designating him for assignment for the second time this season. The 40-man roster stands at 39 players.
“It was exciting,” Wisler said. “I know a couple of the guys here, so it makes it a little bit easier. I’m excited to be here and for the opportunities that are given here.”
The move to add Wisler was another in a long series of bullpen changes the Mariners have attempted this season. The 26-year-old made 21 relief appearances with San Diego this season, posting a 2-2 record and 5.28 ERA with a 34-10 strikeout-walk ratio.
Wisler’s slider and fastball are his two most prominent pitches, though he has a curveball that could be worked in occasionally. He has some versatility having been primarily a starter during the first two seasons of his MLB career with the Braves in 2015-16.
“He’s got a good breaking ball,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “This is a guy who has been a starter before in the past. We don’t see him that way. We see him as a multi-inning reliever. ... He commands the slider. The slider is a really good pitch. But, he’ll throw 92-94 mph as well, so he’s got real stuff.”
Wisler said his slider has been his go-to pitch this season — he’s thrown it about 71 percent of the time — but wants to balance his approach to keep hitters guessing more.
“This year has been slider heavy,” Wisler said. “I try to attack guys with my best stuff, my fastball and slider. I think the league started to make some adjustments to me on that. ... So, it’s my turn to make the adjustments back. ... I think it just got to the point where guys knew basically a slider was coming every pitch.
“It got to the point where I could get them to swing and miss a couple times, and then once I got the two strikes, they kind of started to sit on it and look for it 0-2 and it became a lot less effective pitch 0-2 than it should be.”
Wisler worked on staying as sharp as possible before the Mariners eventually called to bring him to Seattle, but is familiar enough with the trade process, having been through it four times now.
“He’s been around a couple organizations and he’s still a very young guy,” Servais said.
In March, Wisler was designated for assignment by the Reds, and traded to the Padres four days later. B being traded to Cincinnati last season, he spent parts of four major league seasons with the Braves. He was intitially drafted by San Diego before being dealt to Atlanta in 2015.
“It’s a new opportunity everywhere you go,” Wisler said. “Obviously the team sees something, so hopefully I can take advantage this time.”
This is also Wisler’s first time pitching in the American League.
“At this point just kind of attack with what I can do,” he said. “Just kind of see how the AL guys are. I can talk to the bullpen guys here and the pitching coaches here to see if there’s any different philosophies from guys who have pitched in both leagues. But, for the moment, go out there, pitch, throw strikes and see what happens.”
NOLA CATCHING ON
Mariners rookie Austin Nola, primarily a catcher for Triple-A Tacoma before his June call-up despite learning the position just three years ago, got his first MLB start behind the dish Thursday against St. Louis.
Though he is Seattle’s third catching option on the roster behind Omar Narvaez and Tom Murphy, Nola’s aptitude behind the plate impressed.
“I thought Austin caught fine,” Servais said. “He was familiar with the guys he was catching — (Matt) Carasiti and (Tommy) Milone — and that helped. He’s a good receiver. He’s calm back there. He has a good feel for the pitch calling. Austin’s done a nice job. ... When he gets an opportunity, he’s taking advantage of it.”
Nola’s offensive production was one of his biggest question marks in previous seasons in the minors, but Servais likes what he’s been able to do with Seattle’s organization. Though he’s appeared sporadically in just 14 games, Nola has hit .381/.435/.571.
“That was kind of the thing that was holding him back,” Servais said. “In coming to us, he was very open to making some changes right away, early in spring training. He got down to Arizona before anybody else was there and started building a relationship with our hitting coaches.
“I even remember talking to him at the end of spring training when we sent him out of big league camp, that he was all in on the adjustments he’d made. Even though he didn’t have a ton of success in spring training with it, he was going to stick with it, he was committed to it, and it’s paid off for him.”
The Mariners have not announced how their rotation will set up following the All-Star break, but Servais said it won’t be exactly as it appears now.
“We’ll get all five guys out there as soon as we can, but it will be in a little bit different order than what we’ve had leading into the break,” Servais said.
Rookie Yusei Kikuchi started Friday’s series opener against the A’s. Marco Gonzales is scheduled to start Saturday, and Wade LeBlanc is projected to follow an opener Sunday.
Hunter Strickland (lat) is scheduled to throw a bullpen Saturday. ... Felix Hernandez (lat) has had positive reports from his recent throwing activities, and might get on the mound to throw this weekend. ... Brandon Brennan (shoulder) is progressing in Arizona, where he is rehabbing, and getting close to throwing a bullpen.