Mariners asking more of closer Smith
Rookie has recorded three saves in the last four days
SEATTLE -- Mariners reliever Carson Smith has just five saves to his name since he began closing games for Seattle on June 6.
He's hardly had the opportunity to establish a routine in his new role, but near the end of the Mariners' 6-3 win over the Astros on Saturday night, Smith saw that routine change -- more was being asked of him.
Instead of trotting out to Kanye West's "Power" with a clean ninth, Smith entered the game with two outs and Preston Tucker and Evan Gattis on base in the top of the eighth. It was Smith's first time pitching more than one inning in a game since throwing two innings in an extra-inning win over the A's on May 8.
Manager Lloyd McClendon said after Saturday's game that he didn't intend to put more on Smith's plate, but he wanted to preserve a series win for Seattle. He ended up using five relievers -- his entire bullpen except for right-hander Tom Wilhelmsen and lefty Joe Beimel -- to lock down the Mariners' second straight home victory.
"In my mind this was a big win for us and we needed to have it," McClendon said. "It was just the way it was and [Smith] went out and got it done."
Smith, who needed just 13 pitches to retire all four batters he faced, said the added workload wasn't too much to handle given the three-run cushion the Mariners' offense provided him.
"I'm not saying it's comfortable, but it's a lot easier than a one-run lead," Smith said.
The 25-year-old has recorded three saves in the last four days. When asked if Smith would be available to pitch in Sunday's game, McClendon said it would be "a little tough" for his new closer to pitch in four games in five days, but Smith said he will be ready when his name is called.
"No matter what role you're in, you gotta be ready to go back-to-back days and pitch when you're not at 100 percent or don't have your best stuff," Smith said. "Right now I feel pretty comfortable getting back out there."
• Starter Hisashi Iwakuma said he was overall a little up in the strike zone, but pleased with his ability to throw strikes in a 3 2/3 inning, one-run start for the Class A Short Season Everett AquaSox on Saturday night. The Minor League rehab start was Iwakuma's first since being placed on the disabled list with an injured right latissimus dorsi muscle on April 25.
"It felt good, first time in a long time back to game mode again," said Iwakuma through interpreter Antony Suzuki. "I still need to work on some timing and mechanics but other than that it felt pretty good."
McClendon said Iwakuma is scheduled to make his second rehab start Thursday for Triple-A Tacoma, and will likely require a third rehab start in order to improve his velocity, pitch count and command before rejoining the Mariners.