SEATTLE — Wade LeBlanc knows he’s about as unlikely as any pitcher in the league to throw a no-hitter.
The guy who will oppose him on Thursday, Oakland Athletics starter Sean Manaea, recently did that against the Boston Red Sox. But LeBlanc understands his role with the Seattle Mariners.
“Maybe a guy with better stuff can kind of work through a game,” LeBlanc said. “But I got to attack hitters the first at-bat and kind of go off of that.
“Don’t beat yourself. A guy like me cannot beat myself.”
LeBlanc hasn’t started a game since August 2016 … when he was with the Mariners.
He spent all of last season pitching out of the Pittsburgh Pirates bullpen. This spring he went from being cut by the New York Yankees to just hours later signing a major-league deal with the Mariners to fill out the back-end of their bullpen.
And that spot only opened up because reliever David Phelps needed season-ending Tommy John surgery.
Mariners manager Scott Servais said LeBlanc’s start in the series finale against the A’s could be more than just one spot start, though.
“There’s definitely potential for him to extend it and give him some time and let it play out,” Servais said Wednesday. “We’re not looking for Wade to throw 100 pitches out there, but hopefully he gives us four or five really competitive innings and go from there. Wade is certainly capable of doing that, and that’s what we’re expecting.
“But there’s definitely potential for him to make more than just one spot start.”
LeBlanc saved the Mariners’ bullpen when he pitched 4 2⁄3 innings against the Chicago White Sox last week after starter Mike Leake lasted just 3 1⁄3 innings. The Mariners had credited LeBlanc for how fresh their bullpen was over the next two games of the series, with the Mariners winning both.
LeBlanc threw 71 pitches that outing, so he’s been at least fairly stretched out, even if Servais isn’t expecting nine innings from him on Thursday.
“And my arm is the type of arm that is going to give you whatever you need,” LeBlanc said. “Whether it’s four innings, five innings — whatever you need, I’m ready for it.
“Nine innings? I’ll give you that, too,” LeBlanc said, laughing. “I just might not be very sharp by the end.”
And the last time he started games two seasons ago, he pitched 5 1⁄3 against the Brewers and allowed three runs in a 7-6 win. He lasted six innings in five of his eight starts, including one seven-inning outing.
The Mariners are one of three teams in baseball this year who have only had one starter last at least seven innings in a game.
Not that LeBlanc will do that Thursday.
“I don’t have any kind of number in my head,” LeBlanc said. “It’s just going to be to go until they tell me to stop.”
But what are the Mariners’ options if LeBlanc doesn’t work out?
That’s why they have Lawrence, who can piggy-back off of LeBlanc’s start in long relief. But after that?
They could certainly recall Ariel Miranda. And right-hander Christian Bergman has been solid for Triple-A Tacoma in his six starts there. He had a 3.18 ERA with 32 strikeouts in 34 innings entering Wednesday.
And the Mariners recently re-acquired left-hander Roenis Elias from the Boston Red Sox. He was making his first start with Triple-A Tacoma on Wednesday since the Red Sox had converted him to a reliever.
Right-hander Rob Whalen is another option. He had a solid spring training and appeared in line to join the Mariners as their fifth starter when Ramirez opened the season on the disabled list because of a lat strain. He has a 4.45 ERA with 26 strikeouts in 281⁄3 innings for the Rainiers.
Mariners closer Edwin Diaz earned American League reliever of the month for what he did to start this season, the second such honor of his young career.
Diaz leads the major leagues in saves. But check out how he’s done it:
Diaz held hitters to a .063 batting average and he allowed one run in 14 1/3 innings (0.63 ERA).
And he struck out 27 batters in those 14 1/3 innings thanks to his fastball-slider combination. That’s 16.95 strikeouts per nine innings.
He is one of nine pitchers in major-league history to strike out at least 27 batters and save at least 11 games in any calendar month, and the first since Aroldis Chapman did that with the Reds in July 2012.
He’s the second Mariners’ pitcher to do that – Norm Charlton had 11 saves and 29 strikeouts in September 1995.
Diaz also earned reliever of the month in July 2017.