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Mariners leaning on heavily taxed relief corps

Seattle's bullpen is second in the Majors in innings pitched in August
MLB.com

BALTIMORE -- With an injury-racked rotation, Mariners manager Scott Servais has had to lean heavily on his bullpen to get through a difficult August schedule.

Going into Tuesday's games, the Mariners' bullpen had logged the most frames of any American League team's relief corps this month, at 95 1/3 innings pitched in 25 games. The only MLB team with more bullpen innings in August was the Marlins, with 96 in 26 games, so Seattle had the most in the Majors per game.

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BALTIMORE -- With an injury-racked rotation, Mariners manager Scott Servais has had to lean heavily on his bullpen to get through a difficult August schedule.

Going into Tuesday's games, the Mariners' bullpen had logged the most frames of any American League team's relief corps this month, at 95 1/3 innings pitched in 25 games. The only MLB team with more bullpen innings in August was the Marlins, with 96 in 26 games, so Seattle had the most in the Majors per game.

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That's not surprising, given Seattle has been without Felix Hernandez all month and James Paxton the past three weeks, leaving a rotation of rookie Marco Gonzales, recently acquired Andrew Albers and Erasmo Ramirez and holdovers Ariel Miranda and Yovani Gallardo, none of whom have been consistently able to pitch deep into games.

Mariners starters have a 5.63 ERA in the first 25 games of the month, with the relief crew at a much more respectable 3.97. And Servais will continue to juggle his bullpen options as best as possible to make things work.

Long reliever Casey Lawrence is third in the American League in relief innings in August with 15 1/3, with teammate Emilio Pagan tied for fourth with 15.

"It's been a very big challenge, no doubt," Servais said of the heavy bullpen usage. "When you make that many decisions, it's really hard to get them all right, all the time. You're trying to put guys in spots where they have good chances to succeed and matching them up in spots, but you're not always going to get the perfect matchup.

"You have to get guys that can go above and beyond what the numbers say or prove the numbers wrong in certain situations. I think our guys have done a really good job. They've taken the ball and competed their tails off. Some nights have been better than others, but they've done everything we've asked them to do."

A huge key in that effort has been the rookie Pagan, a 26-year-old who has emerged as a quality middle reliever capable of stepping in when starters run into trouble, holding the line until Servais can use his strong setup crew of Nick Vincent, Marc Rzepczynski and David Phelps and closer Edwin Diaz.

Pagan opened the year in Triple-A Tacoma and had been primarily a one-inning reliever in the Minors, but the South Carolina native has posted a 2.77 ERA and 41 strikeouts with just six walks in 39 innings over 21 outings.

"I feel good going multiple innings now," Pagan said. "It was new at first, but it's something I've grown accustomed to, bridging to the back-end guys."

Thirteen of Pagan's 21 appearances have been for more than one inning and he's twice thrown four-inning stints.

"We threw that on him early when he was up here," Servais said. "We didn't see a lot of him in Spring Training [when he was competing in the World Baseball Classic for Puerto Rico], so to kind of take over a pretty significant role in our bullpen, he's had a pretty nice season."

Worth noting

• Center fielder Jarrod Dyson remained on the 10-day disabled list on Tuesday as he continues recovering from a strained right groin muscle and it appears he likely won't be activated until the weekend, when the Mariners return to Safeco Field to open a nine-game homestand.

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

Seattle Mariners, Emilio Pagan