COMMENTARY | It has been a bizarre 2013 season for the Seattle Mariners' bullpen.
In one facet, pitchers like Danny Farquhar, Oliver Perez, and Charlie Furbush have put up some eye-popping strikeout numbers, with each striking out over 30% of batters they face. In another, the Mariners have had quite a few memorable meltdowns and rank second to last in the majors with a 4.57 bullpen ERA.
Adding to the strange season has been consistent unexpected production from right-hander Yoervis Medina. Once an afterthought, Medina has been one of the bright spots in the bullpen, among inconsistency from Tom Wilhelmsen and Carter Capps, and a significant injury to Stephen Pryor.
For a long time, it looked like Medina would never make it to the major league level, as his performance in the minors raised a few red flags. Originally a starter, Medina had an understandable high ERA in A+ ball in 2011 while pitching in hitter's paradise High Desert, but his strikeout and walk numbers were not indicative of a pitcher who could make a major league rotation.
A move to the bullpen helped, but Medina was still allowing far too many baserunners in AA Jackson, walking 4.54 batters per nine innings in 2012. Still, injuries and ineffectiveness forced Medina up into the majors after only four games in AAA Tacoma in 2013, and he made his major league debut April 16 against the Detroit Tigers.
His first appearance with the Mariners came in about the worst circumstances imaginable, with the bases loaded and the heart of the Tigers' lineup due up, but Medina definitely showed the Mariners something that day. A walk to Torii Hunter allowed a run, but Medina then struck out Miguel Cabrera looking to end the inning, and later struck out both Prince Fielder and Jhonny Peralta swinging.
Since then, Medina has put up a strong 2.55 ERA and 3.52 FIP will appearing in 50 games. He has worked around trouble consistently, stranding an excellent 83.6% of runners on base.
Just watching Medina this year has made it a little difficult to understand how he looked so bad in the minors for so long. His fastball sits around 95 with good sinking movement, to go along with a plus changeup. Medina's groundball rate of 59.7% has allowed him to keep the ball in the ballpark, one of the most important skills for a successful reliever.
The walks are still a major problem - over five per nine innings - which is making Medina just good rather than great for now. But, at least his strikeout numbers have gone up considerably from his time in the minors, with a solid rate of 24.8%.
Medina will probably never be a dominating reliever or a closer, but is a decent piece moving forward of a rebuilding ballclub. He is just another example of how patience with players can sometimes be rewarded.
Nathaniel Reeves is a lifelong Seattle sports follower who is studying journalism at the University of Washington. He currently covers sports for The UW Daily.
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- Seattle Mariners
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