That’s really the only thing I can think of to explain the bullpen meltdown. Other than that Chris Ray is terrible, but more on that later.
Sadly, the Mariners wasted Justin Vargas’ first good outing of the year, falling 8-3 to the Toronto Blue Jays on the getaway day of this series. Vargas went 6 2/3 innings, giving up just one run and striking out seven. Not a bad way to rebound from the horror show that was the home opener.
They also wasted Justin Smoak’s first homer of the year, a gorgeous opposite-field shot to the visitor’s bullpen in left field. Smoak’s been swinging the bat well, and it was really only a matter of time before he hit one out. The fashion that he did it, beating Safeco’s park effects of deadening power out to left, and in opposite-field fasion on top of it, made it all the more impressive.
But then we come to Chris Ray, or as M’s fans are starting to know him as: Chris freakin’ Ray. Entering in the top of the eighth, the move was immediately met with questions by fans commenting through various internet venues. Ray had four mostly shaky appearances before this afternoon, and seemed to be competing more for the “worst arm in the bullpen” title than as a serious contender for late-inning appearances. But he was the one given the task of bailing out Michael Pineda last night, and was aided by a great defensive play by Smoak to do so. Today, he didn’t get a stellar defensive play, and the Mariners lost because of it.
Ray’s final line? He pitched 2/3 of an inning, gave up five hits, five runs, and a monstrous homer to Jose Bautista. He’s also now the bearer of a shiny new 15.43 ERA. All for the sake of having a “cagey veteran” and “proven contributor” be the setup man. Never mind that the last time he was a proven contributor was an elbow surgery and a shoulder injury ago. Originally I felt that Tom Wilhelmsen might get sent to the minors once David Aardsma was back and healthy. Now I kind of hope that Ray gets cut instead.
Speaking of Aardsma, there’s still been no word on when his rehab assignment will start. He’s supposed to throw another bullpen session later this week, and the determination will probably happen then. It also sounds like Franklin Gutierrez, who’s been with the team the last few days, will probably head to Tacoma this weekend for his rehab assignment. So there’s some little bit of good news.
The M’s are now off to Kansas City for the next four days before returning home to face Detroit. Hopefully things can improve a little by the time they come home.
Friendly reminder: If you’re interested in following the M’s minor leaguers, go check out my new blog, Mariners Farm Review.