It’d be easy to say that nothing went right for the Seattle Mariners last night. Felix Hernandez walked five batters en route to his worst outing in ages, and Alex Rodriguez had a hit and a walk. The Yankees hit a grand slam. Robinson Cano looked bad, for the most part. Everyone looked bad, for the most part. But there was one thing that happened that was really neat. So let’s talk about Mayckol Guaipe.
Guaipe is a 24-year-old righty reliever from Venezuela who’s been in the Mariners organization since 2010. After posting lower-than-expected strikeout numbers as a starter, the team moved him to the bullpen in 2013 when they promoted him to high A. He had a big year in 2014 as the closer for AA Jackson, and was promoted to Tacoma to start the year.
His results weren’t great, as he generated a 4.58 ERA through 19.2 innings. But he was striking out 8.24 per nine and only walking 1.37 per nine, continuing a trend of not giving out free passes. Since his move to relief he’s been especially good at staying in the zone, and it’s this that’s propelled him this far. With Chris Taylor going down to sort his swing out, the M’s opted to bring up a relief arm.
With Felix leaving before completing his fifth full inning of work, the Mariners had innings to eat. Enter Guaipe, who many probably didn’t even realize had been called up. In relief of the best pitcher alive, Guaipe was brilliant. He pitched the final out of the fifth before tacking on another pair of perfect frames.
Guaipe has four pitches: a four-seamer, cutter, changeup, and curve. He threw one of each to Didi Gregorius, the first opposing hitter of his major league career. He missed with the cutter, got a foul with the four-seamer, a called strike with the curve, and a weak grounder with the change. It was a fun debut at-bat, watching him use all four of his weapons exactly once. And it worked out alright for him!
After showing such an energizing mix against Gregorius, Guaipe leaned mostly on his heater in the sixth inning. He breezed a four-seamer past Brett Gardner before turning another into a ground out. He again leaned on the pitch against Ramon Flores, who swung through one for Guaipe’s first-ever MLB strikeout. Stephen Drew saw two four-seamers, the second of which he popped up.
Leading off the seventh was Mark Teixeira, the grand slam supervillian from two innings earlier. Guaipe missed with first his change and then his curve before letting Tex get a piece of a fastball. The ball was caught by right fielder Nelson Cruz, bringing A-Rod to the plate. Guaipe snuck a curve by for strike one, then went all fastball the rest of the way, revisiting his cutter for the at-bat’s grounder-generating final pitch. He struck out Chase Headley swinging at a curve to end his perfect debut.
So what did we see in Guaipe last night? A good, four-seamer heavy mix of pitches that all seemed to be clicking. A reliever certainly doesn’t need four pitches to succeed, and it’s not like he used his cut fastball a whole lot, but it’s certainly encouraging to think that he could mix it up if need be. None of his pitches looked like clunkers. The Gregorius at-bat was lovely, but it doesn’t always have to be like that.
What we saw, most likely, was a big-league starter, which, incidentally, is what Guaipe projects as going forward. Someone’s going to lose their active roster spot today to make room for debuting starter Mike Montgomery, and it’s probably not going to be Guaipe. It shouldn’t be, based on what he is.
While everyone dreams of having a Cubs-like farm system stocked with budding superstar bats, it’s really just nice to be able to dip into AAA and grab a big league reliever. The Mariners did it last year with Dominic Leone, and this year they seemed to have found something similar in Mayckol Guaipe. His big league debut was terrific and his future looks bright. Welcome to the show! Stay a while, why don’tcha.