Seattle Mariners manager Scott Servais knows developing high quality pitchers at the big-league level takes time.
“You’ve got to be very patient with it,” he said after the Mariners debuted two more rookies — they’ve debuted 21 this season — Thursday night at T-Mobile Park.
There was no panic when rookie starter Justin Dunn left earlier than expected in his MLB debut against the Reds, with two outs in the first inning, having allowed a pair of runs on sacrifice flies, five walks and three steals.
Servais approached the mound after Dunn faced his seventh hitter of the first, walking Brian O’Grady to load the bases for the third time in the inning, and his pitch count reached 37. Dunn handed Servais the ball, but the manager offered some reassurance before the 23-year-old made his way back to the dugout.
And, Servais is certain Dunn’s next appearance, which will come on the road next week in Pittsburgh, will be much more crisp.
“Justin is really wired the right way,” Servais said. “Really intelligent young guy. He takes his craft very seriously. He wants to be great. And, along the way, there’s lessons you’re going to learn. I think he learned a very valuable one tonight — the value of slowing it down. He was not in the moment. He wanted to get through it so fast, like most guys do their first time out there.
“He’ll be fine going forward. He’ll learn from it, and move on from there. He wants to be a part of something special here going forward. He wants to be a big part of it. Sometimes you want it so bad, and you want it to happen so quick, you’ve just got to take a deep breath and let it play out.”
Dunn, who was one of four players promoted from Double-A Arkansas on Tuesday, said there were “a lot of jitters” going into his first start. He walked the first batter he faced on four pitches, and walked two more after that to immediately load the bases with no outs.
Both of the outs he recorded came on fly balls to center that scored runs, giving the Reds a 2-0 lead. Of the 37 pitches Dunn threw, only 14 were strikes.
“You want to impress, obviously, and show you deserve to be here,” Dunn said. “But, at some point, you’ve got to get past it and be able to fill the zone up.”
But, the adrenaline of his debut quickened his pace, and he had trouble establishing any rhythm.
“I thought his stuff was fine,” Servais said. “He was amped up. There’s no question about it. Trying to get him to slow down and make pitches and kind of work through the inning, he just wasn’t able to do it. He’ll learn from it. We’ll give him another shot here in five or six days when his turn comes up again, and he’ll be much better next time out.”
Dunn said several veteran teammates offered encouragement after a debut that didn’t quite go as planned. After logging 130-plus innings with Arkansas this season, Dunn will be limited in each start, but he was scheduled to pitch about two or three innings Thursday if all went well.
He said learning to control the movement of a new baseball — which is different in the majors than in Double-A — will take some adjustment. As will finding a way to settle in on this bigger stage.
“Just put it behind me and get back to work this week,” Dunn said.
Innings after Dunn, Art Warren, another September call-up from Arkansas, made his debut for the Mariners in the eighth, but also struggled to find some quick success, issuing a walk and an infield single before finally forcing a fly out to end the inning after 15 pitches. Warren is the organization’s No. 26 prospect and 26 years old.
“He was another guy who was breathing pretty hard tonight,” Servais said. “That’s very normal. ... Art’s had a really good season. There’s things he needs to learn, but you have to give him the ball, let him get out there.
“I was hoping he’d have a quicker inning and run him back out there for the ninth. It just wasn’t the case tonight. He got a taste of it, and he’ll be much better next time out as well. It just takes time.”
LEWIS HOMERS AGAIN
Kyle Lewis became the second player in MLB history to homer in each of his first three games Thursday, when he launched a 457-foot solo shot to left center in the fifth Thursday night. Only Colorado’s Trevor Story, who homered in his first four games as a rookie in 2016, is between the 24-year-old Lewis and history.
“Kyle Lewis again,” Servais said. “Wow. Off to some kind of start. ... The thing that stood out for me with Kyle is he’s in the moment. He’s not looking ahead. He’s not looking behind. He’s just there. He’s playing the game and he’s trusting his ability. You love to see it.
“A young player come to the big leagues like that and get off to the start he has, he looks very comfortable, like he’s been here for a long time, which is a great way to look when you’ve got three games under your belt.”
Dunn, who also doubled and singled in a 3-for-5 night — he’s 5-for-11 in his first three games — said he’s trying to take this September promotion “moment by moment.”
“I just try to play my game day by day,” Lewis said. “Things like (records) are more external. I just try to remain internal if I can, and continue to play my game.”