Cishek's offseason mechanical tweaks pay off

Cishek's offseason mechanical tweaks pay off

SEATTLE -- One of the reasons the Mariners have a winning record this year is that their bullpen has righted itself. One of the key members of that crew, closer Steve Cishek, has righted himself, too.

Entering Tuesday night, Cishek was 5-for-5 in save opportunities, was pitching to a 0.90 ERA and had nine strikeouts in 10 innings. He's been exactly the pitcher the Mariners thought they were getting when they signed him to a two-year deal worth $10 million plus possible incentives.

This did not seem like a guarantee after an iffy 2015 campaign that saw the sidewinding right-hander lose his closing gig with the Marlins and get traded to the Cardinals in late July.

Cishek, who had compiled 73 saves as Miami's ninth-inning man over the course of 2013 and '14, never got it going for the Marlins, posting a 4.50 ERA in 32 games. He had a 2.31 ERA in 27 games as a Cardinal, but he was not the closer there, either, so he was non-tendered over the winter, allowing the Mariners to swoop in.

"Just for them to even reach out at that moment and say, 'Hey, we want you to be the guy,' it meant a lot to me," said Cishek, who earned the 100th save of his career on Monday night in the opener of this homestand against Houston.

"It's nice to have a clean slate, but there also was some mechanical stuff I had to go through and work on and adjust. So far it's paid off."

Cishek has a long delivery with many moving parts. While with Miami last year, he said he never felt right.

"For the entire year last year, it was really bizarre," Cishek said. "I felt like I was pitching at 80 percent. I'd rarely get sore. Physically I was fine, but for whatever reason, when my plant leg hit the ground, I just felt like I wasn't able to drive the ball like I had in the past. First half of the season, I was just mind-boggled and couldn't figure it out."

Cishek said he improved while with St. Louis simply by focusing on "pitching with what I had," but that as soon as the season ended, even within two hours of the final game ending, he called up an independent personal coach, Eric Cressey, with whom he'd worked since 2009.

"I watched a lot of video, and it helped out tremendously," Cishek said. "I was able to get my hand back on top of the ball when I land and drive the ball down in the zone."

So far it's working, just like the Mariners figured it would. The club liked him over the offseason and they like him now.

"Since the season has started, the stuff has picked up a notch," Mariners manager Scott Servais said. "It's ticked up, and he's been aggressive, he's executed pitches, he certainly looks comfortable in that role, and I'm glad we've got him in that role."

Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com based in Seattle. Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.