SEATTLE — Seattle Mariners manager Scott Servais had planned to use an opener on Saturday but decided to give his bullpen a rest after having to use three relievers late in Friday’s win over the Baltimore Orioles.
He almost had a change of heart however, after talking with first-round pick George Kirby, who was at T-Mobile Park on Saturday to meet the media, mingle with potential future teammates and coaches. The topic of conversation during Servais’ brief meeting with Kirby?
“I asked if he wanted to be our opener today,” Servais joked.
It likely will take years before Kirby pitches for the Mariners, but there is excitement surrounding the 21-year-old right-handed starter, whom the Mariners took with the 20th overall pick out of Elon University earlier this month. He signed for $3.24 million, and was assigned to the short-season Single-A Everett AquaSox .
“He’s a really good kid,” Servais said. “I had a nice sit-down with him. I love those sit-downs. It’s probably my favorite thing to do is the first time you meet the kid. … Obviously excited to see him come along. Solid background, solid family.”
Kirby, who is 6-foot-5, 205 pounds, throws four pitches — a fastball that can touch 98 mph, and three secondary pitches in his slider, curveball and changeup. He posted an 8-2 record and 2.75 ERA his junior season at Elon, striking out 107 batters while walking just six in 88 1/3 innings.
Because of his heavy workload with Elon this spring, he is not expected to pitch for the AquaSox until midway through July, though he’s working with pitching coaches to develop a training plan for the time in between.
His starts will be limited, and he said he will likely log 20-30 innings with Everett this summer, throwing in condensed two- or three-inning outings to preserve his arm.
“I’ve just got to trust the process,” Kirby said. “I threw a lot this spring, so being able to get a rest was nice. I’m just looking forward to working out and starting to throw again.”
He said the message Servais gave him is the same Servais conveys to all pitchers in the organization — “control the zone and throw strikes.”
“I did pretty well with that in college,” Kirby said. “So, I’ll just try to continue to do that, and it should work out pretty well.”
Servais said he believes the Mariners are moving in the right direction by signing promising young arms in the organization.
“Really important for us,” Servais said. “I think we like our position player group that we have coming. Some of the guys are already here. But, it’s all about pitching. You need starters. You need to develop and grow those guys yourself.
“I think we’re starting to develop a nice little pocket. We’ve got a couple upper level guys, and we’re now starting to (stock up) at the lower levels with guys who can start. You need a whole bunch of them, and hopefully a few can actually make it through and be that guy. I like what it looks like.”