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Gallardo finding niche in Mariners' bullpen

Veteran righty has a 0.79 ERA in his first four outings
MLB.com @gregjohnsmlb

HOUSTON -- Yovani Gallardo could have hung his head. Could have pouted. Could have insisted he's a starting pitcher, as the former National League All-Star has been throughout his 14-year professional career.

Instead, the 31-year-old right-hander acknowledged he hadn't pitched as well as hoped this year as a starter, dug in and has been an extremely productive bullpen member in his first four relief appearances for the Mariners.

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HOUSTON -- Yovani Gallardo could have hung his head. Could have pouted. Could have insisted he's a starting pitcher, as the former National League All-Star has been throughout his 14-year professional career.

Instead, the 31-year-old right-hander acknowledged he hadn't pitched as well as hoped this year as a starter, dug in and has been an extremely productive bullpen member in his first four relief appearances for the Mariners.

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"He was disappointed when he was taken out of the rotation, but he's a good teammate and hasn't gotten negative with any of the guys or any of the stuff that can happen when you get demoted from that role," manager Scott Servais said. "He hasn't done that and that's a credit to his makeup and how he's wired."

Gallardo was the winning pitcher with a scoreless ninth inning in Monday's 9-7, 10-inning win over the Astros. He also earned a three-inning save in a prior outing and has a 0.79 ERA -- allowing just one earned run in 11 1/3 innings -- in four relief outings going into Tuesday's game in Houston.

"He's one of our hardest workers and probably the first guy here every day," Servais said. "He's working out, running, he's on the treadmill, doing his weights. He's not backed off for a second, knowing eventually we're going to need him to step up in some spots. And he has. He's thrown the ball really good out of the bullpen."

Pitching for the first time in 11 days in a long relief role that was interrupted by the All-Star break, Gallardo gave up a leadoff double to Josh Reddick on Monday, then pulled off an impressive escape act -- with help from three excellent plays by shortstop Jean Segura -- to work around two intentional walks and escape a bases-loaded jam without damage.

Video: SEA@HOU: Segura dives, makes stellar throw from knee

Gallardo is 112-90 with a 3.88 ERA over his 11-year Major League career, but this was his first win in relief. After going 3-7 with a 6.30 ERA in 14 starts prior to his June 20 move to the 'pen, he's finding ways to contribute when called on.

"It was definitely my first time in that situation," Gallardo said of his ninth-inning appearance. "You just try to take one pitch at a time, make some good pitches to get some ground balls. And Segura was diving all over the place. He definitely picked me up. That was a good win overall and took the whole team."

But Servais credited Gallardo with having the wherewithal to execute the right pitches to keep the ball on the ground and give his defense a chance to keep the score deadlocked in the ninth.

"He's very calm out there," Servais said. "He doesn't get too excited and that's from his starting pitching background. It's a little different obviously. You don't have time to wiggle your way through things and get settled in. You have to be on top of it.

"Last night he fell behind the first hitter and Reddick squares him up, then here we go. But to his credit, he didn't panic and that's the veteran who has been out there for 10 years or so. He just figures he's got to execute some pitches and get through it and he did."

Servais said it's possible Gallardo could work his way back into the rotation at some point, though rookie Sam Gaviglio will be given the chance to hold onto that role for now. Gaviglio started Tuesday against the Astros.

"We'll see where we're at as we keep moving along," Servais said. "Sam has been very consistent. The last outing before we sent him out was a little rough. Otherwise he's given us a chance every night he's been out there. So we'll see how he rolls for a while."

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

Seattle Mariners, Yovani Gallardo