Mariners bullpen could use Felix bounceback

In eight seasons in the Majors, Felix Hernandez has started 235 games. In only 15 of those has he lasted less than five innings, but two of those abbreviated starts have come in his last two outings.

Never in his big-league career has Hernandez gone three straight starts of less than five innings and the Mariners badly need him to avoid that first tonight, given the state of their overworked bullpen.

In the wake of Tuesday’s 18 inning marathon loss to the Orioles and Monday’s 1 1/3-inning start by Hector Noesi, manager Eric Wedge has needed his relievers to soak up 17 2/3 innings of work the last two nights. Even with September callups providing extra depth, that’s a ton of use.

Oliver Perez (4 innings), Stephen Pryor (3) and Shawn Kelley (2 2/3) threw in both games and Wedge used seven different relievers last night, including two innings out of closer Tom Wilhelmsen.

The Mariners can thank Blake Beavan for seven strong innings on Sunday in Texas for keeping things from being a lot worse, as Wedge had gone heavily to his ‘pen in the previous five games of the last road trip.

Over the past eight games, Wedge has used 33 relievers to get 34 2/3 innings of work. That’s an average of 4 relievers for 4 1/3 innings every game.

Kelley has thrown in five of those games (5 innings), Josh Kinney has thrown five games (4 1/3 innings), Perez four (5 1/3 innings), Pryor four (4 innings), Wilhelmsen four (5 1/3 innings), Lucas Luetge four (3 innings), Carter Capps three (5 inning), Charlie Furbush three (2/3 of an inning) and Noesi once (2 innings).

That doesn’t include time up and down in a bullpen and the warmup pitches required to get ready, which any reliever will tell you can take a toll as well. So some of those guys are going to need a break. It helps that the club has off days on Thursday and Monday, but Hernandez can certainly help out as well.

And, yeah, it would be surprising if he doesn’t. His last two starts of 4 2/3 and 4 innings are indeed a rarity. Prior to those two outings, he’d thrown less than five innings just twice in the last two seasons.

The only other times he’s had back-to-back abbreviated starts like that both came early in the year. In his Cy Young season in 2010, he had consecutive starts of 4 1/3 at Texas and 3 2/3 at Anaheim on May 1 and 7, giving up 13 hits and 12 earned runs in 8 innings before obviously getting things squared away that year. Those were his only sub-five inning outings in 2010 and he had just one last year and one this season until this past two starts.

His other back-to-back short stints came in 2007, but that was injury related when he was pulled after 1/3 of an inning on April 18 vs. the Twins and then went on the DL with a strained forearm, then went just 3 2/3 in his first start back on May 15. Again, those were his only two sub-five inning starts that year.

One of his other short stints was also injury related as he went 4 2/3 innings on June 23, 2008 against the Mets in a game better remembered for his grand slam off Johan Santana. But he twisted his ankle covering home plate and had to come out early.

Those have all been rarities, both injuries or just poor outings for one of the most-durable starters in the Majors over the past eight years. I would expect Hernandez will come back strong tonight against the Orioles tonight … and the Mariners bullpen certainly would welcome that sight as well.

1 Comment

A cs with 2 outs, a man on third and your best pinch hitter up with a 0-0 count. Classic 2012 Mariners. Nice call. Can anyone on this team bunt? It’s baseball 101! This team is very hard to watch.

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