Hong-Chih Kuo Released

Dave · March 19, 2012 at 12:39 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

When the Mariners signed Hong-Chih Kuo last month, I was a bit surprised that he got a Major League deal. Generally, guys with significant health issues who are also fighting “Steve Blass Disease” get minor league deals that make them prove they can get batters out before they are added to the roster. However, the M’s bet on Kuo returning to prior form, and were willing to give him a non-guaranteed Major League deal in order to secure the potential in case he got back to what he was in 2010. By cutting him now, the team will only owe him a portion of the $500,000 he was due, rather than being on the hook for the full amount had he made the Opening Day roster.

Kuo was absolutely awful during the first few weeks of camp, struggling with his command and showing no signs of the life he used to have on his fastball. During his excellent run with LA, he sat in the mid-90s, but he was more along the lines of 89-92 in Peoria. Bad command of diminished stuff is a problem, and Kuo got beat up all spring long.

His release paves the way for the team to carry Rule 5 reliever Lucas Luetge, who has had a good spring, or potentially shift the bullpen makeup altogether. Hisashi Iwakuma is going to pitch in relief of Kevin Millwood tomorrow, and his mediocre spring – along with the strong effort being put together by Blake Beavan – could mean that Iwakuma starts the year in the long role. That would allow Charlie Furbush to make the team as a lefty reliever if they decided they wanted him in that role, or he could start in Tacoma and the team could carry Luetge.

The bullpen is a bunch of moving pieces right now. The guys who likely have jobs locked up are League, Wilhelmsen, Kelley, Camp, and Sherrill, but the last two spots are in flux. If Beavan gets a starting job, Iwakuma would take one of those jobs, but if they stick with Iwakuma in the rotation, it sounds like Beavan will head to Tacoma, and they might go with Erasmo Ramirez as the long man.

With the team leaving for Japan on Thursday, these decisions will have to be made fairly soon. They’re allowed to take 30 players to Japan and don’t have to decide on a 25 man roster until next week, but they’re going to want to have a pretty decent idea of who is going to work in relief by the end of the week. Kuo’s release clarifies things a bit, but we’ll likely see even more definition in the next day or two.


10 Responses to “Hong-Chih Kuo Released”

  1. bat guano on March 19th, 2012 1:15 pm

    Just curious Dave—why do you think Camp has a spot locked up? And what are your feelings about Luetge? Would you prefer that they keep him?

  2. lesch2k on March 19th, 2012 1:36 pm

    how do option rules work at the start of the season, could an extra hitter (or relief pitcher) ride the bench until the #5 starter is needed. alternatively could the #3,4,5, starters be used in relief in japan?

  3. MrZDevotee on March 19th, 2012 2:32 pm

    I think the #3-5 guys are already being used in Japan– if I’m not mistaken we’re playing some exhibition games while we’re there, too– against the Hanshin Tigers and Yomiuri Giants.

  4. smb on March 19th, 2012 3:01 pm

    Ramirez, plz…need strikethrowers (especially bat-missing ones) in the pen.

  5. Bodhizefa on March 19th, 2012 4:01 pm

    So who are the starting pitchers that have locked up spots at this point? Felix, Vargas, Millwood, and Noesi?

  6. groundzero55 on March 19th, 2012 4:07 pm

    I think Beavan’s performance this spring puts him in the rotation too.

  7. Mariners101.com on March 19th, 2012 5:07 pm

    Beaven has certainly made a case for himself.. Wedge’s heart seems in favor of Millwood, Management are in favor of Noesi and Iwakuma, the fans want Ramirez.. Nothing other than Felix and Vargas are set yet.

  8. nwade on March 19th, 2012 7:49 pm

    I’m calling it now: This will go down as the Mariners’ least-controversial personnel move all year.

  9. just a fan on March 20th, 2012 4:49 am

    @lesch2k, if the player isn’t on the 40-man (definitely Erasmo Ramirez, maybe Millwood depending on his contract language), then you could wait until he’s needed and wouldn’t lose the option year.

    If they’re on the 40 man (Beavan), then you might have to use the option although I believe they have to be down a certain amount of time (10 days? 20 days?) or you get the option year back.

    (Exhibition games are irrelevant for option purposes)

  10. Madison Mariner on March 21st, 2012 9:51 am

    “@lesch2k, if the player isn’t on the 40-man (definitely Erasmo Ramirez, maybe Millwood depending on his contract language), then you could wait until he’s needed and wouldn’t lose the option year.”

    Just an FYI, but no player on a minor league contract is ever on their teams’ 40-man roster. By definition, a player has to have an MLB contract to be on the 40-man roster.

    So, players like Millwood, Kawasaki, and Luis Rodriguez, all of whom are on minor league contracts with non-roster invitations(NRIs) to spring training, will have to be added to the 40-man roster if they make the 25-man roster.

    And right now, the M’s have 38 players on the 40-man, but with Cesar Jimenez being put on waivers(and probably either outrighted to AAA or released in the next few days), the M’s will be down to 37 players, so there will be room to add a few of those guys, luckily. 🙂

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