HOUSTON — No wonder left-handed pitcher Ryan Borucki was thrilled to be traded from Toronto to the Mariners late Saturday.
He has fond memories of T-Mobile Park. As a rookie in 2018, Borucki stopped the Mariners, allowing a run – unearned – in a 7-2 Blue Jays win.
It was the first victory of his career.
“It was just awesome that Seattle picked me up because this place has a very special place in my heart because that’s where my first win was. [as a major-leaguer]and I just know what the fanbase is,” Borucki told reporters on Sunday.
Another bonus: Borucki’s wife is from Vancouver, BC
“So it’s very close to his family,” said Borucki, drafted in the 15th round by Toronto in 2012.
The Mariners sent minor league infielder Tyler Keenan to Toronto to acquire Borucki, who came on as a starter but was replaced after the 2019 season. He was designated for assignment by Toronto on May 31 after giving up seven earned runs in 6⅓ innings (9.95 ERA).
But Borucki didn’t allow a base runner in two appearances — covering 1⅓ innings — against Seattle in May at Toronto. He didn’t give up an earned run in 9⅓ innings against the Mariners.
“He’s got a really good arm,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “He pitched well against us if I remember correctly.”
Servais said Borucki will hit 94 to 95 mph with his fastball and has “a pretty good slider.”
After a decade in the Blue Jays organization, Borucki was ready for a change.
“I’ve been with the organization for many seasons and I feel like in baseball it’s not really the norm,” he said.
“All you need is a new pair of eyes on me here, and they might be able to unlock something no one has really seen before. I really only know the way to the Blue Jays. So I’m really excited to come here and see what the Americans have.
Servais was hoping circumstances would allow him to use Borucki in a low-debt situation on Sunday, but that chance didn’t present itself in the Mariners’ 10-inning 6-5 win over Texas.
Borucki had his chance on Monday – and in a highly leveraged situation. He entered the game with two outs in the seventh inning to face Astros star Yordan Alvarez. After putting the powerful southpaw to the ground, Borucki’s night was over – successfully.
Castillo on a roll
Reliever Diego Castillo had a turnaround last month.
Servais continued to use Castillo in high leverage situations even after Castillo struggled in early May, and that confidence paid off.
In his first three appearances in May, Castillo allowed a total of nine earned runs in one inning — an 81.00 ERA over that span — and his season ERA climbed to 9.28.
Since then, Castillo has held opponents without a point in seven of eight appearances. He hasn’t allowed a run in his last six appearances – and he’s had wins in his last two outings.
“Diego has had a lot of success in this league, and no matter how long you play in this league, you’re going to meet bad luck or when things don’t go your way,” Servais said. “But if you have any bases to come back to, and for us – I think everyone knows that – it’s controlling the strike zone and getting ahead in the count, and that’s what he did.
“He’s been critical for us the last three or four series. He regained his confidence. »Castillo pitched two scoreless innings for Seattle’s 7-6, 10-inning Thursday win over Baltimore. He got the win in Sunday’s win over Texas, not allowing a run late in the ninth after the Mariners scored three in the ninth to tie the game.
Servais pointed to the exit after Castillo’s three poor appearances in May as the turning point. Drew Steckenrider was brought in to hold an 8-5 lead on May 15 at the New York Mets.
But Steckenrider allowed four straight hits and a pair of runs. Servais brought in Castillo with runners at second and third and one out. Castillo blocked the tie and go-ahead runs on base with two strikeouts that preserved an 8-7 win.
“Sometimes you just need to get a big hit in a key spot, and you start to get your confidence back,” Servais said. “And that’s what we see of him.”
On Monday night, Castillo threw a scoreless ninth against the Astros for his third save.
Swanson’s return delayed
Reliever Erik Swanson will not join the Mariners on the road trip, as the team had hoped.
Swanson, on the injured list with an inflamed right elbow, was scheduled to pitch in a minor league game Sunday with Class AAA Tacoma, but that was rescheduled for Tuesday night with the Rainiers in Salt Lake City.
“He was a bit tired, but no pain,” Servais said. “We have to do what it takes for him to be 100 per cent healthy when he comes back.”