PEORIA, Ariz. -- His nickname is "Scrabble," which is easier to say than Marc Rzepczynski's last name. But the Mariners are mostly hoping their new left-hander helps spell relief for a bullpen that lacked a southpaw specialist last season.
Rzepczynski (pronounced zep-CHIN-ski) was general manager Jerry Dipoto's one free-agent splash this winter, agreeing to a two-year, $11 million deal with Seattle. The 31-year-old had a 2.64 ERA in 70 appearances last season with the A's and Nationals.
Once Charlie Furbush was sidelined by shoulder problems, the Mariners' only southpaws in the 'pen last year were converted starters Mike Montgomery and Vidal Nuno, neither of whom is a traditional lefty-on-lefty specialist. After Montgomery was traded to the Cubs in midseason and Furbush was released after declining a Minor League outright following Tommy John surgery, the need was even more apparent.
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Mariners manager Scott Servais said right-handers Nick Vincent, Steve Cishek and Evan Scribner did a nice job of adjusting their approaches to have some success against left-handed hitters in the final months, but adding Rzepczynski will make managing his bullpen much easier this season.
"That's [going to] help quite a bit," Servais said. "With some of the moves in our division, there are more left-handed bats. We were able to kind of maneuver through it last year. We were able to get through it without having a lockdown specialist. But going into the offseason, it was something Jerry wanted to address, and we got a pretty good one, there's no doubt."
In Rzepczynski, the Mariners landed a veteran who won a World Series with St. Louis in 2011 and has pitched in 21 playoff games with the Cardinals, Indians and Nationals. Putting himself in position to play deep into October again was a big part of the reason he landed in Seattle in his first shot at free agency.
"Getting to the postseason is always the goal," Rzepczynski said. "First of all to get it, then to win it. At the end of the day, I think every team comes into spring wanting to win the World Series and thinking they can. Sometimes it works out. But I know the team we have here is very competitive, and I could see us winning a ring."
Rzepczynski knows the Mariners well, having been called upon to face Seattle six times with the A's last year before being dealt to Washington on Aug. 25. Having held lefties to a .222/.291/.298 line over his eight-year career, he knows his role. Rzepczynski also knows when a team is stacked with sweet-swinging southpaws, which is why he's happy to have Seattle's lefty-leaning lineup on his side now.
"Scrabble" gave up a three-run home run to Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager in the eighth inning of a May 3 game in Oakland that turned into an 8-2 loss for the A's. And he hasn't forgotten.
"I have to ask him about that," Rzepczynski said with a rueful grimace. "It was 94 and down and in, and I have to figure out how he did that. There's not many lefties in the league that have been able to do that. It was exactly the pitch I wanted to throw, a sinker where I usually get them to ground out, and he barreled it up and hit it out.
"That was the only home run I gave up all year. He hit it really, really good. But now I don't have to face him anymore."