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Why Manny Delcarmen chose the Mariners over the Rays (and others)

02.10.11 at 10:42 pm ET
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Manny Delcarmen is still young. He will turn 29 next week. And yet, after being traded last August by the only team for whom he’d ever played and then being released by the club that dealt for him in December, his career reached something of a crossroads this offseason.

After the Rockies elected not to tender a contract for 2011 to reliever Manny Delcarmen in early December, a number of teams expressed interest in the right-hander. Nine teams requested medicals from his agent, Jim Masteralexis, at the winter meetings in Orlando, and Delcarmen received multiple offers, including one offer of a major league deal with a National League club. One NL team even considered signing Delcarmen with an eye on using him as a starter, believing his three-pitch arsenal (a fastball, curve and changeup, all of which have been swing-and-miss offerings at times in his career) could serve him well in the rotation.

But in the end, Delcarmen’s decision came down to the Mariners and Rays. Both teams feature bullpens in some flux, with Tampa Bay looking to reassemble a relief corps after seeing four pitchers leave via free agency and Seattle closer David Aardsma recovering from surgery to repair his hip labrum. Both clubs offered opportunities for Delcarmen, if healthy and effective, to carve out a meaningful role in the bullpen.

In the end, Delcarmen decided to sign an incentive-laden minor league deal with an invitation to big league spring training with the Mariners. The possibility of pitching at critical junctures of the game appealed to him.

“The main factor was opportunity,” said Masteralexis. “There’s opportunity there for him.”

Delcarmen was a tremendously effective reliever for the Sox in 2007 and 2008, forging a 2.81 ERA with 8.6 punchouts per nine innings. The last two years have seen disappointing results, with effective starts to the season giving way to disappointing ends. He had a 4.74 ERA in the last two years, with his strikeouts per nine dropping to 6.6, and his walks totals spiking.

The Mariners present a good opportunity for Delcarmen to rebuild his value, just as was the case for Aardsma, who flourished as a closer after the Sox traded him to the M’s following the 2008 season. The Mariners’ park is one of the best in the game for pitchers and the AL West as a whole tends to see fewer stacked lineups than the AL East (where Delcarmen made his home with the Sox from the time the Hyde Park native was selected in the second round of the 2000 draft until being traded to the Rockies this past Aug. 31). So, if Delcarmen can regain his effectiveness, he has a chance to not only re-establish himself as a late-innings reliever, but also to position himself well for salary arbitration (for which Delcarmen would be eligible as a player with 5+ years of service time after the 2011 season), which is driven by traditional stats such as record, saves, ERA and strikeouts, and doesn’t account for park factors.

Seattle represents an opportunity for the longtime Red Sox pitcher to get his career back on the path that seemed so promising just a couple of seasons ago. Now, it will be up to Delcarmen to take advantage of the situation with his performance on the mound.

Delcarmen flies to join the Mariners in spring training this weekend for a new beginning that he hopes will bring back some familiar results.

Read More: manny delcarmen, Mariners, Rays,
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