Closer J.J. Putz is down for an indefinite period with a sore rib, and Mariners manager John McLaren says he’ll “mix and match” his relievers at the end of games.
When I hear “mix and match” I think of shopping for clothes. “Do these striped pants go with this plaid shirt?” (Ichiro might say, “Go for it, as long as the shirt is pink.”)
I’m just as fond of “closer by committee.” It tells the relievers that they could be used at any time, any situation. Relievers may say they’ll be ready whenever they’re called, but the truth is they need to know their roles to pitch at their best. I’ve seen it fail too often to be comfortable with it.
My guess — and this is purely a guess — is that McLaren will settle on one guy to close most of the games while Putz is out. He probably threw out the “mix and match” comment because he wants to keep other teams guessing which relievers are available and which aren’t for a particular game (even though it’s pretty easy to figure that out).
Mark Lowe is a natural for the job; he throws hard, he’s now healthy enough to pitch back-to-back games and he thrives on the late-innnig pressure. Seems to me he would match just about any situation McLaren would want to mix him with.
Speaking of hard-throwing relievers, Brandon Morrow pitched a perfect seventh inning Thursday night for the Class AA West Tennessee DiamondJaxx, striking out two. No report yet on his velocity, but that wasn’t Morrow’s problem when the Mariners sent him down. He was all over the place with his fastball during two minor league games at spring training as he came back from a bout of shoulder stiffness.
Once Morrow corrals the fastball and shows he can pitch back-to-back days with no ill effects, he’ll be back with the Mariners.