M’s Reshuffle Pitching Staff as Miley Hits DL
This is the first time the M’s have seen the Red Sox since their big offseason swap of relief ace Carson Smith for middle-of-the-rotation arm Wade Miley. And, because we’re dealing with pitchers, the only two players who might actually face their old teams this series are Roenis Elias (the M’s second piece) and Jonathan Aro (the Sox throw-in).
Wade Miley’s shoulder has apparently been bugging him for a while, and he’ll head to the 15 day DL to rest it. The M’s – and Miley – seem to think he’ll be ready to make his start on the 28th. With the bullpen logging so many innings in both the Texas and Tampa series, the M’s have made a flurry of moves to help out. As we saw last night, David Rollins came up from Tacoma, but after his 1 1/3 IP last night, he’s returning to the Rainiers. In his place will be two more Rainiers, Aro, a right-handed reliever, and starting pitcher Adrian Sampson. To make room for Sampson, the M’s DFA’s Steve Johnson.*
Adrian Sampson’s the pitcher the M’s got from Pittsburgh in exchange for JA Happ last year. Sampson’s went to Skyline HS in Sammamish and then Bellevue College before signing with the Pirates org in 2012. His first taste of the PCL last year was very unpleasant, giving up *60* hits and 38 runs in just 38 2/3 IP. But in 2016, he’s been unrecognizable, throwing harder (hitting 94-95 routinely in spring training), and using improved command to pitch brilliantly for the Rainiers. With a K:BB ratio over 5 and limited hits, he’s been one of the most consistent starters in the PCL. His fastball has some decent run and sink, but it’s not a great ground ball pitch. His command of it has helped him immensely, and a very low walk rate’s probably what caught the M’s attention when they were trying to consummate the trade with Pittsburgh. He pairs it with a slider with very good sinking action and a change-up that’s got exceptional armside run.
Aro pitched briefly for Boston last year, showing a low-90s rising FB, a slider, and a poor man’s Mike Montgomery change-up. Thanks to his FB movement, he’s been a big fly ball pitcher, and that may help explain his real calling card in the minors: a low BABIP and opponent’s batting average. He’s been decent at missing bats, but especially in this day and age, his K rate is really nothing special at all. Instead, he tries to get pop-ups and fly balls – and that game plan’s worked this year in the PCL, just as it worked last year in the IL for Pawtucket. It’s worth saying, of course, that this didn’t work at all in his short cup of coffee with Boston, but that was all of 10 IP.
None of the flurry of moves yesterday and today make a big impact to the club. There’s no Edwin Diaz in this group. But the M’s needed to do something, as Vidal Nuno and Mike Montgomery have looked shakier as their workload’s increased. Rollins and Sampson have earned a shot, and as someone who’s been higher than most on Rollins, I was encouraged by what I’ve seen this year. Sampson too has earned a shot with his performance in Tacoma’s rotation, and while his stay in Seattle won’t be too long this time, it’s possible we could see him again in 2016, potentially in the bullpen.
* Johnson started brilliantly, earning some positive press and fewer garbage-time appearances, but it’s a sign of how vulnerable life can be for a guy like Johnson that he’s both lost the M’s trust and now his roster spot just two weeks or so after stories like this. If he was a prospect/had options, he’d just head back to the minors and get some atta-boys, but life’s tougher for the out-of-options journeymen out there. I almost don’t know what to hope for – it’d be nice to see him clear waivers and head back, but he could go through another couple of organizations by the time the season’s out.