Mariners right-hander Gerson Bautista will be sidelined indefinitely due to a flexor mass strain in his right elbow, manager Scott Servais revealed to reporters Monday (Twitter link via Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times). The flamethrowing bullpen hopeful was lifted from Saturday’s intrasquad game with the injury. While he won’t require surgery, the unspecified timeline and nature of the injury obviously cast some doubt on whether Bautista will be an option for the Mariners this year.
Bautista, 25, came to the Mariners from the Mets alongside Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn in the Robinson Cano/Edwin Diaz blockbuster. He was lit up for 11 runs in nine Major League innings last year and has yet to find success in the Majors, but he’s armed with a heater that averaged 97.7 mph in last year’s brief call to the big leagues and can reach as high as 101 mph. Bautista missed most of last season due to a significant pectoral strain but dominated in the Dominican Winter League this offseason (2.18 ERA, 14 hits allowed, 17-to-5 K/BB ratio in 20 2/3 innings of relief).
The absence of Bautista will only create further opportunity for others in a wide-open competition for bullpen jobs. Offseason signees Yoshihisa Hirano and Carl Edwards Jr. should be locks for spots, and holdovers Austin Adams and Matt Magill impressed after their midseason acquisitions in 2019. Righty Dan Altavilla is out of options, so he also has a leg up in securing a spot. Other than that, the Mariners could have four to five relief jobs up for grabs.
Seattle will use a six-man rotation to begin the season. They’ll be particularly cautious building up the workloads of promising youngsters Justus Sheffield and Justin Dunn as well as veterans Kendall Graveman and Taijuan Walker, each of whom is coming back from injury. That should mean plenty of bullpen innings early in the year, giving players like Brandon Brennan, Erik Swanson, Nestor Cortes Jr., Taylor Guilbeau, Taylor Williams, Art Warren, Zac Grotz and several others the opportunity to demonstrate their long-term value to the organization.