League, Furbush and Delabar have anchored strong relief corps
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YORK -- Three members of the Mariners' bullpen visited the MLB Fan Cave on Friday to start their latest 10-game road trip with some laughs, a trip down the giant orange tube slide, charity video gaming, a video skit taping, skee-ball and general hijinx with the nine Cave Dwellers whose job it is to watch their every pitch since the wee hours of March 28 in Japan.
And at exactly the same time Brandon League, Steve Delabar and Charlie Furbush were merrily riding burlap bags from the third floor to the second floor on that twisty slide, the Mariners' public relations department e-mailed out the daily game notes that included the following gem:
"The Mariners bullpen has recorded a 1.16 ERA in the month of May (3 ER, 23.1 IP) to lead the Majors, ahead of Cincinnati at 1.37 and Houston at 1.38. ... Opponents are batting just .125 (10-for-80) with 2 extra-base hits (both HR) and 24 strikeouts."
That's a lot more than a single game note; it is something that could draw increasing attention of observers across the game. For these three representatives of that bullpen, the statistical perspective was nice, but not something they want to get carried away with it. After their two hours at Major League Baseball's 15,000-square-foot playland in Greenwich Village, they knew what waited uptown: Yankee Stadium, and the start of 20 games in 20 days, each of them a test.
"I think that means we've had a good 11 days," said League, who has converted eight of 10 save opportunities. "May is still young. It's nice to hear, but it's not like we look at that. We continue to do what we do, it's our job, and help the team win.
"I told everyone at the beginning of the season that we have a chance to be the best in the league, and we're just showing it as of now. But that's not the goal. [It is] to keep doing what we're capable of throughout the season."
While the Yankees are trying to make sense of their own bullpen in the wake of Mariano Rivera's ACL tear, the Mariners enter this series appearing to have theirs figured out very well.
"We're ready every day," Furbush said. "We're going to keep doing what we're doing and take it one day at a time."
Delabar added. "We come in every day with a clear mind and just focus on the day, and that's all we can do," Delabar said.
League and Delabar entered Friday with 16 appearances, fewer than only the 17 of Oakland's Grant Balfour and Tampa Bay's Joel Peralta. Delabar continues to be one of the best stories in baseball after coming back from a disastrous elbow injury to not only make The Show but also to post a 0.75 WHIP; having him at the Fan Cave was another way for MLB to highlight his story -- one that could even merit some All-Star consideration the way things are going.
When asked during a Facebook chat on the living-room couch why he had turned to substitute teaching during his time when this was a "no chance" dream, Delabar said: "I just needed the money. The money was OK. You worked till 3 o'clock and then you're done."
Asked whether he thinks Disney will consider a remake of that eerily similar 1993 movie "Rookie of the Year," the Mariners' grownup version of Henry Rowengartner said matter-of-factly: "I have no idea, but I'm sure they're looking at it. I haven't heard anything."
Fans will be seeing Delabar in one other upcoming production, anyway. He and League filmed a video skit that will appear on MLBFanCave.com in the coming days. In it, they sit on side-by-side chairs and interview each other, pulling random questions out of a bowl. Probably the highlight is when League asks Delabar to do his best impression of the Mariners' closer.
A week earlier, some of the Mariners climbed to the top of Tropicana Field during a series against the Rays. Now it was a stop at the Fan Cave, where they signed Rawlings baseball skins on the autograph wall and League compared his many tattoos (mostly Asian art) with the 30 MLB mascot tattoos of Dweller Benjamin Christensen. This is how you deal with the road.
The Mariners know the road quite well in 2012, too. This is already the team's fourth trip, and as Delabar noted, already the second 10-game trip. They started the MLB schedule with those two games against Oakland in Tokyo. By the end of this trip, they will have played nearly twice as many road games (28) as home games (15).
Yes, it all evens out in the end. But Furbush said there is a value to all this early travel.
"I think it's been good so far," Furbush said. "Being on the road, you get to mingle with the team a lot. You get to know a lot of guys, especially early in the year. I think it's good for the chemistry of the team moving forward."
One way was for the three relievers to plop into a cushy chair upstairs and play the State Farm Home Run Derby challenge video game, each getting five outs with every home run netting $200 from State Farm to one of three charities selected by the players. Furbush led the way after raising $1,000.
There are other ways the Mariners' relievers hang tight together. This became clear while the trio was doing the Facebook chat on the couch, as Dweller Gordon Mack did an impromptu plank on the coffee table to crack them up.
"We have no planking, we have no T-boning. All we do is support," League said.
Then he thought for a moment and added:
"Before the game, we kind of huddle up, take turns on who gets ..."
"Someone gets to be a punching bag," Furbush interjected, clearly having been on both ends.
"Someone gets a beatdown," League said with a smile.