SEATTLE -- Jarred Kelenic isn’t the only face of the Mariners' future who will make his debut on Thursday at T-Mobile Park. Top pitching prospect Logan Gilbert was recalled from Triple-A Tacoma to start against Cleveland. Manager Scott Servais confirmed the news after Wednesday's 7-1 loss to the Dodgers.
The Mariners had publicly said all spring that the 24-year-old would be up at some point in 2021, and the plan was for him to finish the season in the rotation, though they will monitor his innings closely. He threw 67 pitches over five innings in his first start for Tacoma on Friday, allowing one run and striking out five against El Paso. He reached 74 over four frames in his final Minor League Spring Training start on April 27.
The state of Seattle’s beleaguered rotation could be a factor in why he’s joining the club now -- after just one start at Tacoma, his highest affiliate yet -- instead of in the coming weeks. Marco Gonzales, Nick Margevicius and Ljay Newsome are all on the 10-day injured list, and James Paxton was lost to season-ending surgery with a forearm strain. Newsome could be headed for Tommy John surgery, Servais said Wednesday, though he’s also considering other options such as a platelet-rich plasma injection.
“He was a little bit down about it,” Servais said. “You just try to pump him up. He's never really had an arm injury, and it's difficult for anybody, and certainly a young player that's trying to make his way at the Major League level.”
In that context, Gilbert is a needed reinforcement -- one touted with big-time potential that Scott Servais has said multiple times “will be in our rotation for a long, long time.” Had it not been for the pandemic forcing the cancellation of the Minor League season and shortening the MLB slate in 2020, Gilbert would’ve been up late last year.
“When I look at the big picture, it all makes sense,” Gilbert said last week. “But during , you're just trying to go out there and play and compete and work on things, and especially when we had last year canceled and we didn’t have the opportunity to play real games, meaningful games, all that kind of stuff. So, it's just about being patient.”
Gilbert was the No. 14 overall pick in the 2018 Draft, eight selections behind Kelenic, who was taken by the Mets before coming to Seattle in the rebuild-defining blockbuster trade that offseason. Gilbert, the 6-foot-6 right-hander, was selected out of mid-major Stetson University, the same school that in recent years has produced two-time Cy Young Award winners Corey Kluber and Jacob deGrom.
He is the first among Seattle’s deep pool of talented starting pitchers that, in many ways, will define the club’s success over the next 5-10 years, along with right-handers Emerson Hancock and George Kirby, who are at High-A Everett and still at least one year away. Throw Mariners No. 10 prospect Brandon Williamson in there, too, the lefty who wowed with nine strikeouts against 15 batters in his Everett debut on Saturday.
Asked recently if this is the most excited he’s ever been about the Mariners’ young pitching core, Servais said: “Not just since I’ve been here, since I’ve been in professional baseball. This is the best group of young pitching I’ve ever been exposed to. I’m very confident in saying that from a talent standpoint. What they don’t have yet is innings.”
Gilbert topped out at 135 innings in his first professional season in 2019, when he went 10-5 with a 2.13 ERA over 26 starts, finishing at Double-A Arkansas. Though he never figured to get called up in ’20, Gilbert impressed at Summer Camp ahead of the regular season and at the alternate training site.
He has two distinct breaking pitches, with the Mariners preferring his hard slider to his curve. He focused on improving his already above-average changeup in the early part of last summer. Gilbert’s fastball tops out at 97 mph, sits in the mid-90s with ease and is thrown with excellent life. He also has two distinct breaking pitches, with the Mariners preferring his hard slider to his curve.
ESPN’s Jeff Passan was the first to report the Mariners’ plans for Gilbert on Wednesday, and Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times was the first to mention the possibility.