Seattle Mariners

Mariners first-round draft pick George Kirby projected to start pitching for Everett in July

Seattle Mariners manager Scott Servais had planned to use an opener on Saturday but decided to give his bullpen a rest after having to use three relievers late in Friday’s win over the Baltimore Orioles.

He almost had a change of heart however, after talking with first-round pick George Kirby, who was at T-Mobile Park on Saturday to meet the media, mingle with potential future teammates and coaches. The topic of conversation during Servais’ brief meeting with Kirby?

“I asked if he wanted to be our opener today,” Servais joked.

It likely will take years before Kirby pitches for the Mariners but there is excitement surrounding the 21-year-old right-handed starter, whom the Mariners took with the 20th overall pick out of Elon University earlier this month. He signed for $3.24 million, and was assigned to short-season Single-A Everett.

“He’s a really good kid,” Servais said. “I had a nice sit-down with him. I love those sit-downs. It’s probably my favorite thing to do is the first time you meet the kid. ... Obviously excited to see him come along. Solid background, solid family.”

Kirby, who is 6-foot-5, 205 pounds, throws four pitches — a fastball that can touch 98 mph, and three secondary pitches in his slider, curveball and changeup. He posted an 8-2 record and 2.75 ERA his junior season at Elon, striking out 107 batters while walking just six in 88 1/3 innings.

Because of his heavy workload with Elon this spring, he is not expected to pitch for the AquaSox until midway through July, though he’s working with pitching coaches to develop a training plan for the time in between.

His starts will be limited, and he said he will likely log 20-30 innings with Everett this summer, throwing in condensed two- or three-inning outings to preserve his arm.

“I’ve just got to trust the process,” Kirby said. “I threw a lot this spring, so being able to get a rest was nice. I’m just looking forward to working out and starting to throw again.”

He said the message Servais gave him is the same Servais conveys to all pitchers in the organization — “control the zone and throw strikes.”

“I did pretty well with that in college,” Kirby said. “So, I’ll just try to continue to do that, and it should work out pretty well.”

Servais said he believes the Mariners are moving in the right direction by signing promising young arms in the organization.

“Really important for us,” Servais said. “I think we like our position player group that we have coming. Some of the guys are already here. But, it’s all about pitching. You need starters. You need to develop and grow those guys yourself.

“I think we’re starting to develop a nice little pocket. We’ve got a couple upper level guys, and we’re now starting to (stock up) at the lower levels with guys who can start. You need a whole bunch of them, and hopefully a few can actually make it through and be that guy. I like what it looks like.”

MOUND ISSUES

Mariners reliever Sam Tuivailala, who was been on the injured list since last August, was set to being a rehab assignment with Everett on Friday night. But problems with the pitching mound pushed that appearance back to Monday.

“I don’t know exactly what happened,” Servais said. “He was up, he threw in the bullpen, he was supposed to come in the game. The inning was very long when he was sitting down there, and then there was a repair-the-mound situation.

“He had a nice bullpen. I talked to him (Saturday) morning. He felt fine. ... No setback. Nothing wrong with Tui at all.”

INJURY UPDATES

Though he’s missed most of the month while recovering from a ruptured testicle that sent him to the 10-day IL on June 6, Mariners outfielder Mitch Haniger resumed light baseball activity Saturday.

He was jogging through the clubhouse pregame, and Servais said Haniger would likely take some swings off the tee, and possibly play catch.

Reliever Hunter Strickland (lat) is projected to start playing catch again Monday after a recent setback in his rehab. He has been out since Seattle’s season-opening homestand.

Lauren Smith covers the Seattle Mariners for The News Tribune. She previously covered high school sports at TNT and The Olympian, beginning in 2015. She is a graduate of the University of Washington and Emerald Ridge High School.
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