Phelps hoping for healthy season in Mariners’ bullpen

AP

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David Phelps

PEORIA, Ariz. (AP) — When Seattle traded for reliever David Phelps last July, Mariners manager Scott Servais believed his team was adding a player that could help the team reach the postseason.

“When we acquired him, first of all, I thought it was perfect, this was the piece,” Servais said Monday.

Seattle was contending for an AL wild-card spot and the talented righty added depth and experience to an overworked bullpen. Phelps helped Seattle go 6-1 in the first seven games he pitched in.

That’s when his season, as well as the Mariners’ year, went sideways. An elbow injury sidelined him for a couple weeks in August. He returned later that month, but threw fewer than two innings before bone spurs in the same elbow ended his season. He had surgery to remove them in September.

“I think he was a key loss to us,” Servais said, “if you look at last year’s season when he went down.”

A check of the standings backs up Servais’ claim. Seattle was 1 1/2 games back from a wild-card berth when Phelps first got hurt, four games back when he was lost for the season and the Mariners finished 7 1/2 games behind Minnesota for the final playoff spot. Losing Phelps meant the team had to rely more on an injury-decimated starting rotation and an exhausted bullpen.

“When he went down it really cut it short,” Servais said. “We were already a little bit short on how far we were able to stretch our starter. We were in tough spots in a number of games in that sixth inning, early seventh inning.”

Despite being injured, Phelps, who posted a 3.12 ERA and struck out 11 in 8 2/3 innings with Seattle last year, stayed with the team through the final home stand of 2017.

“I only pitched in a handful of games (with Seattle), but I was able to be around the rest of the season,” Phelps said. “I stuck around until the last home stand just so I could get to know the guys and some of the younger pitchers, pick their brains on everything and teach them what I could. Biggest thing for me was knowing I was here, getting comfortable with the guys and building relationships.”

Seattle traded for Phelps to bolster its bullpen and entering the 2018 season he’s slotted to set up for closer Edwin Diaz. But he has started 64 games in six seasons. Phelps laughed when asked if he ever thinks about going back to starting.

“I think about pitching,” he said. “I stopped worrying about that a couple years ago. I’m just trying to be the best version of myself and everything else will take care of itself.”

NOTES: Position players reported to camp on Monday and received physicals. Seattle’s first full-squad workout will be Tuesday. . On Sunday, Servais said pitcher Erasmo Ramirez has been shut down for two weeks because of minor lat strain.

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