Bullpen now rested to close season strong

Bullpen now rested to close season strong

ANAHEIM -- The Mariners had two off-days in the five days prior to Tuesday's series opener against the Angels, a welcome relief for a bullpen that has been heavily used by manager Eric Wedge down the stretch.

"We needed that," Wedge said prior to Tuesday's game, which opens a nine-game stretch to close out the season. "That did help us. We're pretty much back on track now."

Over the previous 12 games, Wedge made 42 pitching changes, which plays out to 3.5 relievers per game. The bullpen has pitched 44 2/3 innings in that dozen outings over a two-week span, or about 3 2/3 innings per game.

Closer Tom Wilhelmsen and setup man Josh Kinney threw seven times each in those 12 games, Shawn Kelley had six appearances, Lucas Luetge and Stephen Pryor five each, Oliver Perez and Carter Capps four, Charlie Furbush three and Hector Noesi one.

Wedge has occasionally used several relievers just to get through one inning, mixing and matching his lefties and righties to maximize advantages and playing things as if every out was crucial, even with his team out of playoff contention.

"These last few weeks, we just want to win every game we can," said Kelley. "That's how skipper is managing it and it's good. We've turned things around since the All-Star break, but it's all for nothing if we don't finish strong.

"We're playing the best competition here and now is our measuring stick to see how good we really are. If we want to make a run for the playoffs next year, that's how we're going to have to play September."

Kinney has thrown 31 games in Seattle after pitching 27 times for Triple-A Tacoma, four shy of the career-high 62 appearances he made last year while in the White Sox organization. Kelley has thrown 44 games in Seattle and 14 in Tacoma, already a career-high 58 outings for him.

"I definitely know my arm is better. Tommy John worked," said Kelley, who is a year and a half removed now from surgery. "It's still going. We're in September and with all I threw here and in Tacoma, I still feel good. I'm very happy with this season and just want to finish strong."

Furbush is the one pitcher who has seen his appearances greatly reduced lately, but he said he feels fine and Wedge said it was just a matter of situations.

"We're trying to be careful with everybody here toward the end, whether it be our starters or relievers," Wedge said. "With starters you're talking about innings pitched and with relievers it's more about appearances as far as I'm concerned."