SEATTLE -- With some inconsistent performances sprinkled throughout the bullpen all season, Nick Vincent and James Pazos have been silver linings for the Mariners, and each for different reasons.Vincent's consistency has thrust him into the setup role for the Mariners this season. The right-hander, acquired in a trade with San
SEATTLE -- With some inconsistent performances sprinkled throughout the bullpen all season, Nick Vincent and James Pazos have been silver linings for the Mariners, and each for different reasons.
Vincent's consistency has thrust him into the setup role for the Mariners this season. The right-hander, acquired in a trade with San Diego before the 2016 season for cash, hasn't allowed a run in 28 of his last 29 outings dating back to Arpil 11. He owns a 0.00 ERA in 16 1/3 innings pitched at Safeco Field, tying Arthur Rhodes for the fifth-longest scoreless streak for a Seattle reliever at home.
Vincent doesn't possess eye-opening stuff. His primary pitch, his cutter, averages out at 88 mph, according to Brooks Baseball, and he doesn't have an electric breaking ball (he's thrown his curveball only twice this season).
So, what makes him so tough to hit?
"He's a pitch-maker," Mariners manager Scott Servais said. "He doesn't blow you away with his stuff. He doesn't get too high or too low, he handles his situations very calmly and continues to execute and move onto the next pitch."
In Vincent's first season in Seattle, he started the season strong, posting a 3.47 ERA before landing on the disabled list with a mid-back strain. After being out for about a month, he pitched to a 4.13 ERA the rest of the way.
Servais said that might have been because he trusted Vincent a little too much and overused him.
"I'm not running him into the ground like I did last year," Servais said of what's changed. "I'll admit that. He was a guy last year that when we acquired him, I trusted him."
But Vincent offers another explanation for his injury troubles.
"Last year, it was more me, it wasn't really [Servais]," Vincent said. "I was kind of slacking. As a pitcher you get in a routine and you do well. … I feel like that was my fault. I wasn't doing my core exercises and back exercises and stuff. I kind of fell apart, just in general. And getting older, that's something I have to learn. I'm 30 now, you're not 23 anymore. You gotta start doing some stuff in the gym. That was just me, I think."
What makes Vincent so reliable is effectiveness against righties and lefties. Left-handed batters have generally had more success against him during Vincent's career (.241 against lefties vs. .212 against righties). This season, lefties are only hitting .167 against him, while righties are hitting .247.
As aberrational as they may be this season, Vincent's righty-lefty splits don't matter to him.
"The one thing with [Vincent] is [no matter] if it's the sixth inning, the seventh inning, the eighth inning, Nick just says 'Give me the ball,'" Servais said. "It's not like, 'I'm your eighth-inning guy and if I don't get it in the eighth, I'm going to be ticked off.' He doesn't operate like that."
Not as consistent, but much more electrifying is Pazos, a left-hander with a fastball in the upper 90s whom Seattle acquired in an offseason trade with the Yankees.
Servais offered an anecdote when general manager Jerry Dipoto approached him with the plan to trade for him. He described him accurately as a lefty who throws 96 mph. That checked out.
But does he throw strikes?
"Well, most of the time," Servais recounts Dipoto telling him.
Dipoto's description of Pazos is true, as the left-hander still occasionally struggles with command: his walk rate is 10.1 percent. But his strikeout rate (29.5 percent) and his ground-ball rate (59.3), both of which are career highs, indicate improvements with his control.
Improvement to his mechanics, condensing and simplifying his release are significant reasons why, according to Pazos.
"It's basically been a never-ending endeavor to make things as simple as possible and make things as consistent as possible," Pazos said. "Because that's really the key to throwing strikes is being consistent, so it's just been trying to get there and figuring out what's comfortable and what works for me."
And like Vincent, Pazos' competitiveness has shown this season, which makes it easier for Servais to trust him in high-leverage situations.
"At the end of the day, I just want to get outs," Pazos said. "I don't want to worry about left or right. I know there are matchups and things in the game now that dictate when you pitch or not. And I'm OK with that. I'm ready to take the ball whenever they ask me to take the ball."
Josh Horton is a reporter for MLB.com based in Seattle.