Gilbert faces 'big challenge' in 2nd MLB start

Right-hander battles command over 2 2/3 innings in loss to Tigers

May 20th, 2021

SEATTLE -- There were always going to be growing pains for Logan Gilbert once the talented pitching prospect reached the Majors, and those in Wednesday’s 6-2 loss to the Tigers proved to be ones that snowballed quickly.

After working a 1-2-3 first inning on nine pitches, Gilbert struggled to overcome the lack of command he had on his hard-breaking slider and his off-the-table curveball, both of which he had trouble landing for strikes. He also was on the losing end of some extended at-bats that the Tigers grinded out against him the second time through the lineup.

Those challenges, as well as a few mistake pitches he left over the plate, kept MLB Pipeline’s No. 27 overall prospect from finishing the third inning. He was pulled after giving up an RBI single to Nomar Mazara with two outs in the frame while nearing his 85-90 pitch threshold. He threw 74 pitches, including 39 in the third.

This came after Gilbert labored through the second inning. He allowed each of the first three batters to reach, leading to two runs, before bouncing back to retire the next three. In total, the right-hander allowed three runs on four hits and two walks with two strikeouts.

“I was going to keep going back to them and try to find it, because eventually you have to,” Gilbert said. “You have to prove that at some point in the outing, and I wasn't able to do that tonight. But I wasn’t going to just lay fastballs in there the whole time, because that's not the answer, either. So I was trying to find it along the way and just never could.”

These are somewhat expected hurdles for the 24-year-old Gilbert, who has made only three starts in 2021, counting his one outing for Triple-A Tacoma two weeks ago. He also dealt with a shoulder issue in Spring Training that prompted the Mariners to curb his workload, so some rust is to be expected.

“There is certainly rust there, there's no question about it,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “This guy didn't pitch at all last year, now he's making first appearances in the Major Leagues. It's not easy. But health-wise, he's healthy. We will have a very short leash on him as we go forward, wanting to keep him healthy. Just wanted to get the experiences, because I know he's really going to be good for us. There's no question in my mind, as he continues to learn and move forward in his career.”

But Gilbert's abbreviated outing put an onus on the bullpen, which tossed 6 1/3 innings to bring its total for May to 76 1/3. The bullpen is well on pace to blow past the 96 2/3 innings it threw in April, when Seattle had the Majors’ second-best ERA among relievers (2.35), compared to a 5.27 ERA in May.

Gilbert’s health and development will take priority, but the Mariners would benefit from him going deeper next time out. They won’t examine his innings tally as much as the number of high-intensity pitches he throws, and Wednesday featured many of those, including 10 foul balls from the Tigers in two-strike counts.

“They don't give at-bats away," Gilbert said. "You’ve got to find a way to get them out and find a way to earn the outs, and that was challenging tonight. It was a big challenge. I'm just trying to be creative, finding different ways to do it, especially when I didn't have a great feel for my pitches. So, obviously, that was a big challenge.”

Seager is T-Mobile Park’s most frequent flyer
An early positive on Wednesday was the Mariners providing Gilbert some immediate run support one day after the team was no-hit for the second time in 13 days. Kyle Seager crushed a 420-foot two-run homer in the first inning. That was the 84th career home run at T-Mobile Park for the 11th-year Mariner, breaking a tie with Nelson Cruz and Raúl Ibañez.

"I think it means I've been here for a little while," Seager said with a chuckle. "I think the two guys I passed did it in a few years less than I did, so I'll take it. But it's definitely an honor. It's definitely something I'm extremely proud of; not something I thought I would kind of ever have. So it's pretty special."

Seager’s wife, Julie, tweeted a video of their daughter congratulating the 33-year-old shortly after the milestone homer, then encouraged the Mariners to show the clip on the T-Mobile Park jumbotron, which they did during the fifth inning.

The longest-tenured Mariner was taken by complete surprise, and as such, was all smiles.

“That was sweet. That one hit me,” Seager said. “Definitely surprised. Those little ones will get you, so that was pretty special for me.”