ANAHEIM -- As manager Scott Servais sorts through his bullpen in the early going this season, he hasn't hesitated to put hard-throwing rookie Dan Altavilla into late-inning situations. And the confidence has paid off in three scoreless appearances, including Altavilla's first career win when he struck out three in the eighth inning of Thursday's 4-2 win over the Astros.
Servais indicated Altavilla and left-handed rookie James Pazos -- who threw a scoreless sixth and seventh in the win -- both can help in high-leverage, late-inning situations to set up closer Edwin Diaz when needed.
"We do have some young guys down there, but they've got good stuff," Servais said. "They've handled situations really well, throwing strikes and going right after people. So why not? It just gives you more options. [Thursday] night we had a couple guys that were down and you just fire the young guys in there."
Altavilla opened eyes when he allowed just one run in 12 1/3 innings last year as a late-season callup, but he's taken a big step forward this spring with the development of a quality slider to go along with his upper-90s heat.
"I'm just picking up from last year and running with it," Altavilla said. "I tweaked my slider grip a little bit, talked to Diaz and [Tony] Zych about it. It's been big for me this spring and these first couple games. There's more depth to it and I've got a lot more swing and misses."
Altavilla is built like a fullback and is an avid weight lifter, but the addition of quality offspeed offering has been critical.
"The slider was there before," Servais said. "But the consistency of it, the ability to throw it in a lot of different counts, we saw in Spring Training. He had a couple outings where he went out there with 2-0, 3-1, 3-2 sliders. When you can do that, in my eyes, now you can pitch in the big leagues.
"I think that's the difference between the Minor League player that gets behind in the count and has to go to the fastball. We know how that works out. In this league, you've got to be able to spin it and spin it in all counts. It doesn't matter how hard you throw. And he does throw very hard. He's got a really good arm."
• Reliever Steve Cishek threw to live hitters in an extended Spring Training situation on Wednesday in Arizona, according to Servais, and he could be close to advancing to pitching in Minor League games as he works back from offseason hip surgery.
• Tickets are still available for Monday's home opener at Safeco Field against the Astros, as well as all games in the opening homestand. Ken Griffey Jr. will throw out the ceremonial first pitch in Friday's game, which will also feature a Griffey replica statue giveaway for the first 45,000 fans.
Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.