The possibility of Danny Hultzen joining the Seattle Mariners in the coming weeks has become unrealistic. The heralded pitching prospect, who seemed to be on the fast track to the big leagues, has hit a speed bump in Class AAA with the Tacoma Rainiers.
Hultzen, the second player selected in the 2011 amateur draft, struggled in his most recent outing in Tucson, pitching 51/3 innings, giving up seven runs (six earned) on six hits with three walks and six strikeouts. He fell to 1-2 in seven starts with the Rainiers with a 5.23 ERA.
Hultzen has made it through six innings in just one of his starts.
The struggles have gotten to the point where the Mariners have decided to step in. General manager Jack Zduriencik confirmed that the organization has planned to limit Hultzen’s innings in the coming weeks. He’s thrown 108 innings thus far this season.
“I think with him we are going to back him off a little right now just for the fact it’s his first full season,” Zduriencik said. “You are hitting the dog days of summer right now, a lot of young kids feel the fatigue factor. We just talked about him the last few days, where we are just going to back him off a little so he can catch his breath, then hopefully he finishes the season strong.”
So exactly what does “backing off” mean, and how will they accomplish it?
“You could skip a start, you could limit his pitch count, you could limit his throwing in between starts, how you want to handle his bullpen sessions, stuff like that just to keep him as fresh as possible,” Zduriencik said. “But mostly just back him off the innings he’s throwing.”
Rainiers manager Daren Brown, reached via phone in Tucson, said no direct plan has been put in place. Mariners minor league pitching coordinator Rick Waits and Rainiers pitching coach Dwight Bernard are still working on a plan.
“We just found out recently so there is nothing definite,” Brown said. “You can do all those things, but it’s about the end result that matters.”
Right now, Hultzen is scheduled to start on Thursday in Tacoma against Oklahoma City. But if the Rainiers did decide to skip his start, they would be able to use Andrew Carraway, who is ready to come off the 7-day disabled list.
As for this styming Hultzen from being up with the team in the September call-ups, Zduriencik seemed unconcerned.
“I don’t really feel pressure to bring him up in September,” he said. “I don’t feel that way at all. If he’s ready, we’ll sit down as a group and discuss it and if we think it’s the right thing to do, then fine. There is no need to do it if it’s not in his best interests.”