ARLINGTON - When veteran George Sherrill underwent season-ending elbow surgery in April, there was some uncertainty over where the Mariners stood with left-handed relief help. But Rule 5 rookie Lucas Luetge has more than answered that question in the season's first two months.
Luetge has yet to allow an earned run in 18 appearances, shattering the club record of 14 scoreless outings to open a career. Going into Wednesday's series finale with the Rangers, he'd held opposing left-handed hitters to a .083 batting average (2-for-24) with 12 strikeouts.
Charlie Furbush, acquired in the Doug Fister deal last year, has been very effective as well as Seattle's other left-hander in the bullpen. Lefties are batting .138 (4-for-29) against him with 15 strikeouts.
Luetge has stranded 12-of-13 inherited runners, with Furbush at 10-of-15.
Luetge, who has had about 15 family members travel from his hometown of Industry, Texas, for each of the games against the Rangers, said he's growing more and more comfortable as a strict lefty specialist after throwing in a variety of roles coming up in the Brewers system.
"Last year there'd be like two weeks where I'd be strictly throwing to one batter or so, then I'd be long relief," said Luetge. "The Minor leagues are a little different because they want to see what all you can do. So I've never done it for this long a period, but heck, I like it. I go out there and I either get the guy out and it's a really good day, or I don't and it's a really bad day."
Luetge said the biggest adjustment has been learning to not throw too many warmup pitches, since a lefty specialist can be asked to get up in the bullpen several times in a game and then needed the next day as well. But manager Eric Wedge indicated the 25-year-old could see an increased role as the season advances.
"I want to do more with Luetge," Wedge said. "We've used Furbush for more than one hitter and as a multiple-innings guy, but I want to use Luetge more than just a straight one-matchup guy, just for his own development up here, too. I think he'll do a fine job. It's just the way it's worked out for us so far."