Rule 5 pick Brennan fits in Mariners' bullpen

April 10th, 2019

KANSAS CITY -- Among the numerous pleasant surprises in the Mariners' hot start to the season, perhaps the most overlooked has been the outstanding bullpen contribution of Rule 5 Draft selection .

In six appearances, the lanky 27-year-old did not allow a run while scattering five hits with two walks and seven strikeouts entering Wednesday's play. It’s been an impressive debut for a guy who’d only pitched 18 games at the Triple-A level and was a six-year Minor League free agent looking for a landing spot last offseason.

The Mariners took a chance on Brennan after their analytics department identified his reworked changeup as being a potential difference-maker, and he’s taken the opportunity and run with it, combining a mid-90s fastball with his quality offspeed offering as a versatile reliever capable of pitching multiple innings.

After six seasons in the Minors, nobody appreciates their opportunity more than Brennan, who spent most of last year with Double-A Birmingham in the White Sox organization.

“I’m loving it,” Brennan said. “It’s the best group of guys I’ve been around. Everyone gets along real well and that’s helping me out there. I’m just trying to go out and do my job, and letting the guys behind me play. That’s all I want to do, put the ball in play. These dudes are here for a reason and they’re doing their job.”

Brennan has done his as well, using his sinker and changeup to induce ground balls at a 63.6 percent rate -- the Mariners' staff averages 45.1 percent -- while helping Seattle win all six games he’s appeared in. He’s pitched two innings in three of his six outings.

“I’m pretty OK with whatever role you want to throw me out there in,” Brennan said. “I’ve done the ninth inning, I’ve done the coming in the second inning, I’ve started before. There’s not too much of the pitching aspect I haven’t done. I have my own little routine that I do, so as far as comfort-wise, it’s another game, another day.”

Brennan’s MLB debut was far from just another day, however. His first appearance came in the Tokyo Dome when he was inserted into the game just as Ichiro Suzuki was being taken off the field for the final time to a huge ovation from the Japanese fans.

“I got to be the dude who went out to make my debut right after one of the greatest players of all time came out, so that was super cool,” Brennan said. “I took myself out of my moment and kind of embraced his, which I’m really glad I did. I got to congratulate him before he came off, then I got to go out and do my own thing. It was kind of a special moment in two different ways.

“My dad was laughing, saying, 'You got a really good standing ovation when you went out there.’ I was like, ‘Yeah, sure, I’ll take that.’ People were going nuts.”

Brennan isn’t your typical young Rule 5 pickup. At 27, he brings some perspective. And part of that is appreciating the opportunity he’s been given.

“It’s been a heck of a journey just to get to this point and I’m looking to continue it and build on it, and take it further and further for as long as I possibly can,” he said. “I definitely grinded and worked my butt off to get where I am right now. So it’s a culmination of a lot of different feelings and habits and workouts finally just coming together.”

On Tuesday, Brennan pitched the seventh and eighth innings in relief of starter Marco Gonzales, preserving a 6-3 lead with some defensive help from second baseman Dee Gordon, who made two outstanding plays for the final two outs, including a diving stop of a scorching line drive back up the middle by Chris Owings to end the eighth.

Did Brennan think Gordon would get to that ball?

“To be honest, I had absolutely no idea where he was,” Brennan said with a smile. “The only thing I was worried about was getting my face out of the way.”