'Electric' Simmons could spark Mariners in '18

Right-hander posted impressive numbers in brief debut season

November 1st, 2017

SEATTLE -- It was Sunday, Sept. 3, at Safeco Field. The Mariners were winning, 10-2, against the Athletics after a five-run eighth inning. Manager Scott Servais made a call to the bullpen, and third-string catcher and relief pitcher , frequent batterymates down at Triple-A Tacoma in August, grinned at each other.

Why the moment was so joyous for Marjama is simple: The 27-year-old catcher was about to make his Major League debut, replacing the veteran behind the plate.

Simmons' elation wasn't as simple. For him, it meant hours upon hours of tedious and sometimes painstaking rehabilitation was about to pay off after spending almost the entire 2017 season on the disabled list with a muscle strain in his right forearm.

From there, Servais worked Simmons back into the Mariners' bullpen. Simmons, a September callup, posted a 7.04 ERA in nine appearances. But omit a lackluster performance in the final game of the season against the Angels, in which Simmons allowed four runs in 2/3 innings, and his ERA was a tidy 2.57.

Clearly, Simmons could be a big part of the Mariners' bullpen next year, if he can get past the injury issues that have sidelined him much of the past three seasons.

"Simmons has definitely opened some eyes here," Servais said of the hard-throwing right-hander, who was acquired from the Braves last winter.

The eyes opened by Simmons had less to do with raw results than it did with his potential. His pitch repertoire contains a fastball that hovers around 96 mph to go along with a sweeping slider.

After catching Simmons in Tacoma during his return, Marjama was among the impressed.

"He's just electric," Marjama said. "You see some guys that throw, and he's almost got this effortless electricity about it. When the ball comes out of his hand, it jumps. And his fastball, you see it flash on the radar gun, he's got a great fastball, but I think the feel that he has is something that, being around him for a little bit now, it kind of gets overshadowed by how good his stuff is.

"The guy knows how to pitch, and he's going to be a huge asset."

Simmons, who appeared destined for a key bullpen role during Spring Training before his elbow issues cropped up, should definitely be in the fray for a spot next season. Getting a glimpse of what Simmons could do in September was important for Servais.

"For guys like him, who we haven't seen much all year, it's an audition," Servais said. "Pitching more meaningful innings here later in the season is helpful going into next year because we can get fooled by Spring Training and guys can kind of work their way through. So we really value what goes on during these games and everything out there."

Simmons was aware of that, but being with the big league club to finish the season was important for his mental well-being as well as his physical health.

"Pitching aside, it was just nice to be back and be around a clubhouse environment and feel like a part of a team again," said Simmons, who missed all of 2015 with the Braves following Tommy John surgery. "There's a lot of really good dudes on the team that are very welcoming. It's nice to kind of get to know some of these guys and build some team chemistry.

"It also helps that it doesn't hurt to throw anymore."