It appears the Mariners had no confidence that lefty Wade Miley would become the reliable cog they once envisioned him providing for their rotation.
The Mariners traded Miley to the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday for minor league lefty Ariel Miranda. The Seattle club confirmed the deal just prior to its game against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.
“It is a bittersweet ending to the trade we made last winter with high hopes,” Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said. “We are appreciative of everything that Wade did for the Mariners’ organization, culminating with his best performance of the season (Saturday) against the Chicago Cubs, one of the best teams in the league.”
Miranda, 27, is a Cuban defector who was pitching at Triple-A Norfolk, where he was 4-7 with a 3.93 ERA in 19 starts. He made one big league appearance in July, and gave up three runs in two innings against the Mariners.
“Ariel Miranda is a power left-handed pitcher,” Dipoto said, “with a four-pitch mix (who) is major league ready (and) provides us with flexibility. We are very excited for what he can bring to the Mariners.”
Miranda will report to Triple-A Tacoma, which means the Mariners will make a roster move Monday to replace Miley on their 25-man roster.
Miranda was 22-25 with a 3.78 ERA in 80 games, including 64 starts, over seven seasons in the Cuban league before his 2014 defection.
Miley, 29, is 7-8 with a 4.98 ERA in 19 starts, but he has delivered quality starts in his last three outings. He limited the Cubs to one run and one hit in seven innings Saturday in a 4-1 victory.
“We are glad that Wade can go from one team in playoff contention to another,” Dipoto said, “and to a division that he has had success in during his career. This decision is the best move for the Mariners present and future.”
The Mariners acquired Miley, along with reliever Jonathan Aro, from Boston on Dec. 7, 2015, in exchange for reliever Carson Smith and starter Roenis Elias.
Sunday’s deal frees up payroll for the Mariners.
Miley is making $6 million this season and is under contract next year for $8.75 million, with a club option for 2018 at $12 million with a $500,000 buyout. That’s roughly $11.4 million guaranteed through next year.
▪ The Mariners remain linked to Cincinnati in a possible trade to acquire shortstop Zack Cozart. There are indications that it could be a multiplayer deal, but sources indicate that Reds outfielder Jay Bruce is not likely to be involved.
Several other clubs are trying to acquire Bruce.
The Reds are believed to want a high-end pitching prospect as part of any deal for Cozart. One possibility is lefty Luiz Gohara, who turned 20 on Sunday. He is a combined 5-0 with a 2.05 ERA in eight starts at Low-A Clinton and Short-A Everett.
The nonwaiver trade deadline is 1 p.m. Monday.
WILHELMSEN PAYING DIVIDENDS
What increasingly looks like the Mariners’ key move to bolster their bullpen occurred nearly six weeks before Monday’s nonwaiver trade deadline.
It was June 21 when they reacquired right-hander Tom Wilhelmsen after he chose to become a free agent rather than accept an outright assignment to the minors by the Texas Rangers.
Wilhelmsen, 32, has a 1.93 ERA in 11 appearances since rejoining the Mariners and has emerged as manager Scott Servais’ first choice in high-leverage situations in the later innings.
“When we have traffic,” Servais said, “he figures a way to get through it because he’s got experience. That means a lot. You want a guy out there who is not going to panic. Just make pitches, and that’s what he’s done.”
That was particularly evident last Tuesday at Pittsburgh, when Wilhelmsen bailed out Vidal Nuno from a first-and-third jam with no outs against the heart of the Pirates’ lineup.
“That’s always the goal,” Wilhelmsen said. “Get three outs with no runs. Or however many outs you’re asked to get. I guess it’s just the comfort level, maybe. Stuff is still there.”
Catcher Mike Zunino was less reticent.
“This is the best I’ve seen him since ’14,” Zunino said. “He’s got four pitches right now, and he’s commanding all of them. He’s throwing his soft stuff early in counts. Then his fastball plays even better and it’s 98 (mph).”
Wilhelmsen served as the Mariners closer in 2012-13 before losing the job due to ineffectiveness. He readily admits he wasn’t emotionally prepared at that point to handle the pressures that accompany the duty.
He served in a variety of roles over the next two years before reclaiming his job as closer last season over the final six weeks. He responded by compiling a 1.04 ERA in 15 games and converting 13 of 15 opportunities.
But the Mariners dealt him to Texas in mid-November in a multiplayer trade that netted center fielder Leonys Martin. The reasoning was simple; the Mariners believed they needed a regular center fielder, and the Rangers wanted bullpen help.
For whatever reason, Wilhelmsen was a disaster in Texas. He gave up 25 runs and 38 hits in 21 1/3 innings over 21 appearances. He accepted one demotion to Triple-A Round Rock but, after being recalled, rejected a second one.
The Mariners took a chance.
The easy explanation is Wilhelmsen simply regained his confidence once he returned to the Mariners —except he said: “I felt pretty confident over there, too.”
So what is it?
Even Wilhelmsen isn’t sure.
“I’m guessing,” he said, “it’s just that I’m much more comfortable in a Mariners uniform than I was in a Texas uniform. I don’t know how that translates, but I really don’t care because it’s working.”
And, really, what else matters?
Lefty Wade LeBlanc will return to the Seattle rotation Tuesday for his first start since July 18. He did have a three-inning outing July 23 in relief, but he will start against Boston on nine days of rest.
The trade that sent Miley to Baltimore appears to solidify LeBlanc’s spot in the rotation. He is 1-0 with a 4.26 ERA in five appearances, including four starts, since being acquired from Toronto in a June 21 trade.
Servais had announced his tentative rotation plans for the four-game series against Boston as James Paxton, LeBlanc, Hisashi Iwakuma and Miley.
It isn’t known who will replace Miley in the series finale.
Boston’s announced starters are Eduardo Rodriguez, David Price, Rick Porcello and Drew Pomeranz.
The final “and biggest” test for right-hander Taijuan Walker in his recovery from tendinitis in his right foot comes Monday in a projected five-inning rehab start for Tacoma against Albuquerque (Rockies) at Cheney Stadium.
Walker reported no problems in recent days as he worked through the standard progression of flat-ground throwing, bullpen workouts and a three-inning simulated game last Wednesday in Pittsburgh.
But the discomfort always has been minimal in nongame situations since it first surfaced in a June 14 start at Tampa Bay. He made three more starts before going on the disabled list following a shortened outing July 5 at Houston.
If all goes well Monday, Walker is tentatively slotted to return to the big league staff for a projected start on Saturday against the Los Angeles Angels at Safeco Field. He was 4-7 with a 3.66 ERA before being placed on the disabled list.
Double-A Jackson closer Dan Altavilla, a converted starter, has a 1.01 ERA over his last 28 appearances. His overall mark is 2.00 for 35 outings.
The Mariners selected Altavilla, 23, in the fifth round of the 2014 draft after he was picked as the top NCAA Division II pitcher while at Mercyhurst (Pennsylvania). He was 11-15 with a 4.16 ERA in 42 starts over his two previous pro seasons.
Altavilla’s 28-game run dates to May 6, and he is limiting opponents to a .185 batting average in that span. He had 47 strikeouts and 12 walks in 35 2/3 innings.
It was 16 years ago Monday — Aug. 1, 2000 — that Mike Cameron ended a 19-inning marathon with a walk-off homer against Boston’s Jeff Fassero for a 5-4 victory at Safeco Field.
It remains the longest home game in franchise history. (Let’s not repeat that on the anniversary.)
John Halama allowed four runs in nine innings before the Mariners’ bullpen delivered 10 shutout innings: four from Brett Tomko, three from Jose Mesa, 2 1/3 from Robert Ramsay and two-thirds of an inning from Kazuhiro Sasaki.
The Mariners open their longest homestand of the year at 7:10 p.m. Monday with the first of four games against Boston at Safeco Field.
Left-hander James Paxton (3-5, 4.27 ERA) will face Red Sox lefty Eduardo Rodriguez (2-4, 6.51). The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest and heard on 710-AM.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners