Young reliever traded from Yankees vies for spot in bullpen
By Owen Perkins
Special to MLB.com |
PEORIA, Ariz. -- James Pazos described the news of his November trade from the Yankees to the Mariners as "bittersweet." The "bitter" comes from leaving the team that drafted him and nurtured him through the Minors for five years until he made his big league debut last season.
The "sweet" is a result of feeling like he's coming home to the Mariners, starting his first Cactus League season near his childhood home in Arizona and sizing up the heightened opportunity of a bullpen eager for the raw talent the 25-year-old left-hander has shown.
"Pazos, being left-handed, would be a nice fit for us, if it clicks there," manager Scott Servais said Thursday. "You always get excited by power."
Pazos combines power with stuff, but as the bullpen hopeful points out, his biggest challenge is showing consistent command. He posted a 1-0 record with a 13.50 ERA over seven appearances in three separate callups last season.
"A guy that throws that hard, why isn't he in the big leagues?" Servais asked. "He probably has a problem making adjustments. For him, it's been the command. Getting the ball in the strike zone, landing a secondary pitch. He's aware of that. You've just got to make adjustments a little bit quicker. Instead of landing three, or four, five balls out of the strike zone in the same spot, big leaguers don't. They miss once, they might miss twice, but the third one is usually an adjustment made."
Pazos has been diligently working to erase that adjustment gap, doing what he can outside of the game atmosphere. He's focused on making a habit out of repeating what works for him and quickly making the changes he needs when things aren't working.
From Pazos' perspective, one factor on his side is starting his first spring with the Mariners on his home turf.
"Going to sleep in my own bed makes an incredible difference," Pazos said with a beaming smile. It's worth the extra commute from one side of the metro Phoenix area to the other to enhance his comfort level as he tries to stick in Seattle's 'pen.
Pazos faces competition from the likes of Dillon Overton, "a great pickup" from Oakland who "throws strikes," according to Servais; Nick Vincent -- "I think he'll pitch some in the eighth, and I think he'll pitch some getting us out of trouble in the fifth;" Steve Cishek and Tony Zych, both recovering from injuries, among others.
"We got caught up in roles [last year]," Servais said. "Everybody wants to know their role. I spent a lot of time every day walking the outfield, talking to those relievers, mapping out where we're at, who's available that night, and how they may have to slide into a spot in the bullpen that particular night."
With a 2.30 Minor League ERA over 151 relief appearances, one start, and 243 strikeouts in 215 1/3 innings, Pazos is hoping his home cooking can add to the Mariners' big league relief recipe for success.
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.