Mariners reliever Matt Festa underwent Tommy John surgery in March 2020, just a few weeks after Seattle outrighted him off their 40-man roster. As is typically the case for TJS patients, he lost around a year and a half rehabbing and didn’t return to minor league games action until last July. The righty had an excellent second half with Triple-A affiliate Tacoma, working to a 2.95 ERA over 21 1/3 innings. He punched out a whopping 36% of batters faced while walking a minuscule 3.5% of opponents, but that wasn’t enough to earn another look in a Seattle bullpen that was among the league’s best.
Because he’s no longer on the 40-man roster, Festa is not subject to the ongoing lockout. Ryan Divish of The Seattle Times writes that he’s been participating in Seattle’s minor league camp and flashed mid-90s fastball velocity in workouts this week. If he maintains that form throughout camp, he could be an option for Seattle in the event of injuries or underperformance among the big league relievers. Festa, 29 next month, posted a 4.70 ERA/4.97 SIERA over 30 2/3 big league innings between 2018-19. He’ll need to recapture a spot on the 40-man roster to get back to the MLB level.
More from Seattle:
- Former Mariners designated hitter Nelson Cruz hit free agency at the end of the year. Some Seattle fans have pined for a reunion, no surprise given Cruz’s success in the Pacific Northwest. He hit .284/.362/.546 over four seasons with the Mariners. Cruz wasn’t quite that productive last year in his age-40 campaign, but he still combined for an above-average .265/.334/.497 showing in 584 plate appearances with the Twins and Rays. That kind of production would be a notable upgrade to a Seattle lineup that ranked just 21st in wRC+ (pitchers excluded) last season. Nevertheless, Corey Brock of the Athletic opines as part of a reader mailbag that the Mariners seem unlikely to pursue a full-time designated hitter like Cruz. Seattle has an abundance of outfield options, in particular, and 2020 Rookie of the Year Kyle Lewis will be coming off a season cut short by injuries to a right knee that has proven problematic for the bulk of his professional career. Signing a full-time DH would necessitate playing Lewis more or less every day in the outfield, where Mitch Haniger, Jarred Kelenic, Taylor Trammell and Jake Fraley could also compete for reps. Brock feels the front office and manager Scott Servais are likelier to use the DH spot as an opportunity to rotate regulars through quasi-rest days, a fairly common practice around the league at this point.
- The Mariners have hired former Padres analyst Dave Cameron in a consulting role, as Divish first reported (on Twitter). Cameron, a Washington state native, began his career as a Mariners’ blogger before being hired as a writer and editor at FanGraphs. He joined the San Diego front office over the 2017-18 offseason but departed the organization after four seasons last fall. He will now have the chance to apply his analytical skills for the team that first ignited his baseball fandom and set him on his journey.