As the losses mounted in the most recent losing streak, I wondered if I could find anything good to say about the Mariners these days. Sure, bad teams lose, but nobody should get blown out night after night after night. The pitching staff especially looked completely over-matched. It is one thing to be bad; it is another to not belong in the same league.
That is why the last two nights have been so refreshing. Enter Ryan Rowland-Smith and Ryan Feierabend, youngsters who took the mound and delivered fine starts on back-to-back nights. Granted, they both faced the Oakland A's, perhaps the worst offensive lineup in the American League. Still, the pitching staff was giving up 10 runs with ease on a nightly basis, so to see a couple good pitching performances against anyone was a much-needed sight for sore eyes.
There are legitimate reasons to be impressed with both starts as well. Rowland-Smith went 7 innings and threw 114 pitches, with negligible loss in velocity. Not too bad for someone still getting stretched out. Ryan Feierabend had a rough start on short rest against Minnesota, but looked much sharper on regular rest. In particular, he spotted his fastball well, and his change-up had good arm action and nice sink. He kept most everything down in the strike zone too, and so he induced more ground balls than he usually does. It would have been nice to see Ryan go a little deeper, but I will gladly take five great innings at this point.
Arms in the minor leagues are giving reasons for hope too. Brandon Morrow will be back in the majors soon, and he keeps getting stronger with each start. His most recent outing - 4.2 IP, 2 H, 1 BB, 10 K, 72 pitches - was particularly promising. Chris Jakubauskas is working his way back from injury, Robert Rohrbaugh and Andrew Baldwin have both been having better outings of late, and looking more long term, 19-year-old Michale Pineda has an era hovering around 2.00 in Wisconsin.
There is reason for hope. I have had faith in the young arms for some time (as I said over and over and over last off-season), and it is nice to see some of them finally get chances this year. If I had been in charge of the Mariners last off-season, the rotation would look similar to how it does now. But, the team would also have Adam Jones in center or right field, an even deeper crop of arms in the farm system, and about $20 million less in payroll. My version of the 2008 Mariners probably would not have avoided a terrible collapse, but it sure would be in position to turn things around much faster.