Is callup near for this rising Mariners talent?

June 7th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Daniel Kramer’s Mariners Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

OAKLAND -- awoke to a surprising phone call last week, one that could put the Mariners’ No. 19 prospect by MLB Pipeline on a fast track to the Majors.

On the line’s other end was Seattle’s president of baseball operations, Jerry Dipoto, who asked how Evans would feel about a transition to the bullpen at Double-A Arkansas -- less than one year removed from when the club selected him in the 12th round of last year’s Draft.

“He was super enthusiastic about doing it,” Dipoto said in an interview this week in Oakland. “He just sees it as an opportunity.”

Indeed, the Mariners are legitimately considering Evans for a spot in their Major League bullpen, potentially as soon as after the All-Star break. The calculus behind the decision speaks to both how aggressive a first-place team intends to be in a postseason push and how rapidly Evans has progressed in just 10-plus months.

Evans pitched the sixth and seventh innings in Arkansas’ win over Springfield on Tuesday, surrendering two hits and one unearned run, with one walk and one strikeout. The plan is for him to have three days down then throw a one-inning outing on Saturday, and continue to shorten up over a transition of what Dipoto estimated would be at least three to four weeks.

As a starter, Evans had a 1.23 ERA with 47 strikeouts and 15 walks in 51 1/3 innings, while holding hitters to a .540 OPS.

If this practice sounds familiar, the Mariners made similar moves with Edwin Díaz back in 2016 and Matt Brash in 2022. Both blossomed into some of the game’s elite leverage arms, but Evans’ situation would be different, as the club still views him as a starter long-term.

This transition would sheerly be to help the Mariners in a second-half push, as they attempt to assemble the best eight bullpen arms within the organization. If it pans out, and the club also returns Gregory Santos from the injured list and to the level they’d envisioned, it could impact their Trade Deadline strategy and allow them to focus their resources more specifically to other needs -- notably, the lineup -- instead of adding another 1-2 relievers. Among contenders, the club is already expected to be active.

“This makes him a little bit different than some of the guys who came before him,” Dipoto said. “But he's got awesome stuff. ... He could go out and 'Bob Gibson' the Texas League, or we could see if he can help us here.”

In an April interview with, the 6-foot-4 Evans detailed his six-pitch arsenal -- two- and four-seam fastballs, a new sweeper, curveball, cutter and changeup -- but the Mariners will lean on him to trust what works in shorter bursts.

“The challenge will be to continue his development, his pitch development, while understanding that you don't need six pitches to be a good big league reliever,” Dipoto said. “You've got a righty, you've got a lefty -- pick two and go. But all of his pitches are exceptional and his command of them is really good. We don't want to take his repertoire away. But you also don't want to overcomplicate things.”

Evans could be the latest success story among Seattle’s well-chronicled player-development group that drafted and graduated players to the Majors like Brash, Logan Gilbert, George Kirby, Bryce Miller and Bryan Woo. And he was directly recommended to Dipoto’s staff by director of pitching strategy Trent Blank ahead of last year’s Draft, based almost exclusively on his pitching profile despite middling results at the University of Pittsburgh.

Yet, the advanced acumen Evans has shown since has also been touted to be above his years, which could make him a seamless fit within the big league clubhouse.

“Hopefully he's the next in line,” Dipoto said.

Evans began the year at Arkansas after making just three starts at Single-A Modesto last year, leapfrogging High-A Everett. His path within a bullpen role is far from linear, and the Mariners recognize it could take time. But if all goes to plan, he could be in The Show sooner than later.