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Pagan settles into long-relief role

MLB.com @gregjohnsmlb

SEATTLE -- After churning through a revolving door of long relievers, the Mariners finally have settled into a stretch with rookie Emilio Pagan handling the role.

And while much of that has to do with the rotation finally getting healthy enough to not need to rotate a fresh arm in constantly, Pagan has also pitched his way into prominence by allowing just one run in his last 15 1/3 innings, a span of five games dating back to May 23.

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SEATTLE -- After churning through a revolving door of long relievers, the Mariners finally have settled into a stretch with rookie Emilio Pagan handling the role.

And while much of that has to do with the rotation finally getting healthy enough to not need to rotate a fresh arm in constantly, Pagan has also pitched his way into prominence by allowing just one run in his last 15 1/3 innings, a span of five games dating back to May 23.

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Those outings have been dotted over two months because Pagan has been shipped up and down from Triple-A Tacoma four times, much like other long relievers and spot starters Casey Lawrence, Chase De Jong, Dillon Overton, Max Povse, Rob Whalen, Chris Heston and Tyler Cloyd.

But that merry-go-round seemed to have ended for the time being when Yovani Gallardo was moved back into the rotation this week and Pagan came up strong again with three scoreless innings to finish up Friday's 5-1 loss to the Yankees and save the rest of the bullpen from wear and tear.

"That's kind of how we decided to go, and he's done a really good job," manager Scott Servais said before Saturday's matchup with New York. "We've stretched him as long as four innings, and again last night he was very efficient. He's got a nice feel for what he's doing."

The 26-year-old was a 10th-round Draft pick out of little Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina in 2013 and has moved steadily through the system, finally getting his big league shot in early May when the club was working around an injury-ravaged rotation.

His first two outings didn't go well -- allowing five runs in 2 2/3 innings against the Angels and Rangers -- and he was quickly sent back to Tacoma. But he got another shot later that month and pitched four scoreless innings with just one hit against the Nationals. And while that led to another quick demotion because a fresh arm was needed, he opened some eyes.

In two subsequent recalls, the South Carolina native has continued to shine, allowing just six hits with 14 strikeouts and four walks over the 15 1/3 frames. Pagan insists he didn't lose any confidence after getting roughed up in his first stint, saying he made mostly good pitches, with bad outcomes.

Now he's building a reservoir of results that can only help his mindset and his team's confidence. He understood the earlier situation of roster roulette, and now that things have calmed down with the rotation, he appreciates the longer look.

"Obviously I want to be here as long and often as possible," Pagan said. "But I knew the situation the team was in. We had four starters on the DL at one time. My job is to go out there and get outs and not worry about anything else. I was very fortunate to get opportunities and throw well and now getting another one, I'm just trying to ride it out as long as possible."

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.

Seattle Mariners, Emilio Pagan