The Mariners made something of a surprise addition to their bullpen, reinstating right-hander Andres Munoz from the 60-day injured list. In the corresponding move, veteran righty Joe Smith was placed on the injured list with an undisclosed issue.
Munoz hasn’t pitched in a big league game since September 15, 2019, when he was finishing up his rookie season with the Padres. The 22-year-old’s career was put on hold due to Tommy John surgery in March 2020, and another setback this past spring added some extra time onto his rehab efforts. Munoz finally began a minor league rehab assignment on September 17, and made one rookie ball appearance and three Triple-A appearances before getting the call to Seattle.
During his injury recovery, Munoz was dealt to the Mariners as part of their big seven-player swap with the Padres prior to the 2020 trade deadline. He might now go from afterthought to instant hero if he can provide the M’s with anything in their late-season playoff push, though it remains to be seen exactly what Munoz can deliver after so much time on the shelf.
A Padres international signing out of Mexico in 2015, Munoz’s big league resume consists a 3.91 ERA over 23 innings in 2019, with a nice 30.9% strikeout rate but also a rather high 11.3% walk rate. That has more or less been the story for Munoz throughout his minor league career, as his big high-90’s fastball has led to a lot of missed bats, though control has often been an issue. This big velo is certainly an intriguing weapon for a team in the postseason hunt, as Munoz might be something of a secret weapon out of Seattle’s bullpen.
The lack of information about Smith’s IL placement would seem to indicate a COVID-related issue, but details aren’t known about the right-hander’s situation (a positive test, contact tracing, waiting on a test result, vaccine side effects, etc.), nor could any be forthcoming given the league-mandated privacy regulations about the COVID list. If a quarantine is required, Smith will miss not just the rest of the regular season, but also likely the ALDS if the Mariners advanced that far.
After a brutal start to the season with the Astros, Smith has turned things around since being dealt to the Mariners at the deadline, posting a 2.00 ERA over his 18 innings in Seattle. Smith has improved his strikeout rate since joining the M’s and has surrendered only one home run, as opposed to giving up four homers in his 21 2/3 frames in Houston.