The Mariners have selected catcher/outfielder Chris Herrmann from Triple-A, Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times tweets. The club sent fellow catcher David Freitas to Triple-A in a corresponding 25-man move, though the Mariners will still need to create a 40-man spot for Herrmann.

The 30-year-old Herrmann is in the Mariners’ starting lineup Sunday, which will be his first major league action of the season. He previously played in the majors with the Twins (2012-15) and Diamondbacks (2016-17), combining for a .202/.278/.344 line in 811 plate appearances. Herrmann remained with the D-backs organization through the offseason, but they released him in late March and he quickly hooked on with the Mariners on a minors pact.

Herrmann earned his promotion to the Mariners with a solid offensive showing in Tacoma, where he opened 2018 with a .266/.424/.444 line and six home runs across 177 PAs in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. Freitas fared decently at the MLB level, meanwhile, with a .217/.321/.304 slash in 55 trips to the plate. But for now, he’ll cede the role of Mike Zunino’s backup to Herrmann.

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Keeping track of Sunday’s minor moves from around baseball…

  • The Yankees have outrighted left-hander Ryan Bollinger to Double-A, per a team announcement. Bollinger had a short stint with the Yankees, who selected his contract this past Wednesday and didn’t end up using him in a game. The well-traveled 27-year-old is now headed back to Trenton, where he has logged 20 innings this season and posted a microscopic ERA (.90) with 5.9 K/9 against 1.8 BB/9.

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The Rangers may trade left-hander Cole Hamels in the next couple months, and “it looks like the Yankees could be interested,” Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes. Although the Yankees are among 20 teams on Hamels’ no-trade list, the 34-year-old suggested earlier this week that he wouldn’t block a move to a contender. New York certainly looks as if it’ll contend all season, which would appeal to Hamels, and the team figures to end up acquiring him or another legitimate starter at some point this summer. General manager Brian Cashman pointed to his pitching staff as an area that he could address Saturday, before Sonny Gray continued his disappointing season with an ugly start against the Angels.

Regardless of whether the Yankees go outside for help, they should get back a rotation reinforcement, lefty Jordan Montgomery, in the coming weeks. Montgomery, who has been out since May 2 with an elbow strain, is “progressing” without any issues, Bryan Hoch of MLB.com tweets. The second-year man is three-plus weeks into a potential six- to eight-week absence, and he had been in the midst of another effective season prior to going down. Righty Domingo German has served as a Montgomery fill-in for three starts, the first of which went swimmingly and the next two rather poorly.

More on a few other AL teams…

  • There have been questions about the Orioles’ power structure, a group that includes general manager Dan Duquette, manager Buck Showalter, VP Brady Anderson and ownership (Peter Angelos and his two sons), but signs are pointing to Duquette making the calls this summer, per Cafardo. Based on Cafardo’s report, Duquette will run point on a potential Manny Machado trade, one that could provide long-term benefits for the Orioles if the GM secures the right talent in return. Whether Duquette will continue in his post beyond this season remains unclear, though, given that his contract’s set to expire and the O’s look primed to begin a rebuild.
  • Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera could come off the disabled list as early as Monday, Evan Woodbery of MLive.com tweets. The 35-year-old has missed upward of three weeks with a hamstring strain, which derailed an excellent start to his season. Cabrera put together a .323/.407/.516 line in 108 plate appearances before landing on the shelf.
  • The surging Mariners picked up another win Saturday to move to 31-20, though they may have lost a couple important contributors in the process. Shortstop Jean Segura exited after being kicked in the head, and manager Scott Servais said afterward that he’d enter concussion protocol, while reliever Nick Vincent departed with a strained right groin (Twitter links via Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times). A DL stint seems like a good possibility for Vincent, who ranks third among Mariners in relievers in innings (22) and has logged a 4.09 ERA with 9.41 K/9 against 2.45 BB/9. The Mariners will presumably know more Sunday on Vincent and Segura, one of their offensive catalysts. Segura has slashed .329/.345/.469 with four home runs and 12 stolen bases in 226 PAs this season.

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Although the Orioles didn’t find a Manny Machado trade to their liking over the winter, the club did believe it was progressing toward a deal with the Cardinals in December, Buster Olney of ESPN reports. St. Louis backed out of negotiations on a swap that would have sent pitching prospects and third baseman Jedd Gyorko to Baltimore, per Olney. The identities of the prospects aren’t known, though Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com reported in mid-December that the Orioles had interest in young Cardinals hurlers Luke Weaver, Jack Flaherty and Jordan Hicks. It’s hard to imagine the Cardinals parting with any of those three now, but Olney notes it’s possible they’ll circle back on Machado as the season progresses. Regardless, the Machado trade sweepstakes is likely to kick off in earnest after the June 4-6 draft, according to Olney.

More from around baseball…

  • Royals closer Kelvin Herrera could emerge as one of the most sought-after players in advance of the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, Olney observes. After an underwhelming 2017, Herrera’s amid an excellent start to the current campaign, and both that and the hard thrower’s impressive track record are among factors that should make him attractive around the league, Olney reasons. As an impending free agent on a rebuilding team, Herrera looks like a shoo-in to end up on the move, though Olney posits that KC would have leverage in trade talks because it could threaten to retain the 28-year-old and issue him a qualifying offer at season’s end.
  • Giants ace Madison Bumgarner is slated to take the hill in another rehab start Thursday, but he could make his season debut in the majors on Friday instead, Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle writes. Bumgarner, who’s working back from a fractured pinky finger, was untouchable during a Triple-A rehab start Saturday, striking out eight (with one walk) over 3 2/3 hitless, scoreless innings. Bumgarner threw 47 pitches, just above the pregame goal of 45, and suggested afterward that he’s ready to slot back into San Francisco’s rotation. “I obviously didn’t know before today, but I think so,”  he said. “I wouldn’t say I’d be back at midseason form, but I definitely feel I could get some outs.”
  • Cubs right-hander Yu Darvish went to the disabled list on Saturday with triceps tendinitis, though it doesn’t seem as if he’ll be on the shelf for long. The team’s “not overly concerned” about the injury, manager Joe Maddon told Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune and other reporters. Indeed, it’s only believed to be a “minor” issue, a Cubs source informed Sullivan, who notes there’s a chance Darvish could ultimately miss just one start.

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Orioles shortstop Manny Machado seems like a good bet to end up on the move this year, though it’s not “anywhere close” to happening, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com reports. The Orioles aren’t “actively shopping” Machado right now, and they’re content to keep the soon-to-be free agent until closer to the July 31 non-waiver deadline, Kubatko writes. Kubatko goes on to list some potential Machado suitors, including the Phillies, who “left open the possibility of engaging in talks” with the Orioles when they were in Baltimore a couple weeks ago. Meanwhile, according to Kubatko, the Cubs reached out to Orioles general manager Dan Duquette to express interest in Machado, but Chicago – like Baltimore – isn’t prepared to make a major deal yet. Of course, Cubs president Theo Epstein addressed the Machado-Chicago speculation earlier this week, saying it’s “in fantasy land at this point.”

Here are more trade-related items:

  • The Yankees, owners of arguably the majors’ premier offense and its second-best record (32-16), “need pitching more than anything else,” general manager Brian Cashman said Saturday (via Bryan Hoch of MLB.com). Cashman made that observation before right-hander Sonny Gray’s latest subpar start – a 3 2/3-frame, five-run performance in a loss to the Angels. Gray has now posted a 5.98 ERA/4.78 FIP with 7.97 K/9 and 5.07 BB/9 in 49 2/3 innings this year, which wasn’t the type of production the Yankees had in mind then they acquired him from the Athletics last July. His 2018 woes – not to mention a general lack of front-end starters behind ace Luis Severino – could force the World Series hopefuls to revisit the trade market for rotation help in the next couple months.
  • Tampa Bay pulled off a surprise trade Friday when it sent reliever Alex Colome and outfielder Denard Span to Seattle, and that won’t be be the end of the Rays’ moves, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times suggests. With Colome and Span gone, Topkin names Chris Archer, Wilson Ramos, C.J. Cron, Carlos Gomez, Adeiny Hechavarria, Brad Miller, Sergio Romo, Matt Duffy, Chaz Roe, Nathan Eovaldi and Jonny Venters as candidates to wind up in other uniforms.
  • Padres outfielder Travis Jankowski has drawn trade interest, Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times reported before the Mariners-Rays swap. It seems the Mariners tried for Jankowski prior to landing Span, but according to Divish, the Padres didn’t show much interest in the M’s low-ranked farm system. Known mostly for his speed and defense, the 26-year-old Jankowski has gotten off to a .313/.382/.400 start at the plate in 89 attempts this season. He’s controllable through the 2021 season.
  • Thanks to their bullpen’s dreadful start to the season, the Indians have been inquiring about outside help, Paul Hoynes of cleveland.com relays. It doesn’t seem as if any trades are close to happening, however, as Hoynes points out that the deadline’s still more than two months away. Cleveland’s bullpen entered Saturday last in the majors in both ERA (6.23) and fWAR (minus-0.8), and it then lost integral lefty Andrew Miller to the disabled list for the second time this season.

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Back in 2016, Terry Francona’s usage of Indians left-hander Andrew Miller was revolutionary, and the way he deployed his best relief pitcher, particularly during the postseason, has since had a profound impact on the way MLB teams have used their bullpens. The Andrew Miller Effect changed the game of baseball, and was a fascinating story to watch.

Except that’s wrong. Or at least, it’s the wrong way to look at the story. What we sometimes call the Andrew Miller Effect isn’t actually a story in and of itself, but rather a single chapter in a longer novel that has yet to reach its conclusion. That novel doesn’t begin with Miller, either, and it’s not even really about relievers. At least, not as much as you might think.

In the simplest terms, a team wins a baseball game by scoring more runs than the opposing team. So obviously, there are two ways for a team to improve its chances of winning: get better at scoring runs, or get better at preventing opponents from scoring. The latter objective placed within the confines of baseball’s nine-inning, three-outs-per-inning format outlines a modified objective: the pitching staff must somehow get 27 hitters out while allowing the fewest runs possible. The only real limitation on the pitching staff beyond that is that a pitcher who is removed from the game may not re-enter.

Baseball is a game largely centered around one-on-one matchups between a pitcher and a hitter. And since the hitters must continue to bat in a pre-determined order unless replaced by another hitter, the team that’s trying to get outs in a given half-inning has far more flexibility in gaining matchup advantage. In addition, with the way rosters are usually constructed, a team has the facility to change pitchers 11 or 12 times in a game, while a batter can only be swapped out three or four times total.

The conclusion here is that teams have always had enormous incentive to get creative in the way they deploy their pitchers. It’s not an entirely new concept; teams have been using LOOGYs (Lefty One-Out Guys) against left-handed hitters for years because the pitcher has a distinct, proven advantage in such a matchup; it’s just one way of increasing the chances they’ll get an important out. Similarly, Francona using his best reliever in situations with runners on or where the opposition’s best hitters are due up is all about finding ways to get the difficult outs with the highest probability and bridging the gap from zero to 27.

The Indians’ strategy with Miller was ground-breaking because it blurred the hierarchy of “middle relievers”, “setup men” and “closers”; in some ways, the roles of Josh HaderChad Green and more are products of the Andrew Miller Effect. The Rays are now breaking ground by similarly blurring the lines between “starters” and “relievers”. If you’re reading this, you probably already know that Rays manager Kevin Cash has been using relievers such as Sergio Romo and Ryne Stanek to get the first few outs of a baseball game, then turning to his “starters” to come in after that.

The core logic behind the strategy makes plenty of sense. Romo as a reliever is probably more better equipped to get outs at the top of the lineup than the second- or third-best starter in a thin Rays rotation. In addition, it means that the pitcher entering in relief of Romo will pitch to the weaker part of the lineup first; that means the new pitcher can be called upon to face more batters without having to expose himself to the most dangerous opposing hitters a third time, likely facing the bottom half of the lineup three times apiece instead. On the whole, the results of this experiment have been positive, which has everyone around baseball talking about the strategy and the Mets in particular considering deploying it on Monday.

It’s hard to imagine that the Sergio Romo Effect won’t have an impact as loud as (or louder than) the Andrew Miller Effect. It seems really unlikely that the strategy will just go away; as we saw with the Andrew Miller Effect, teams might hesitate to try something bold and unusual, but they’ll copy it quickly once they see it working for a rival club.

It’s still possible that MLB will step in at some point and write a new rule that limits this fast evolution of pitching roles. But if that doesn’t happen, we could eventually be looking at a version of baseball in which pitchers are defined by how many outs they’re typically called upon to get rather than in which part of the game they’re called upon to get them. At that point, we might have to entirely reimagine the labels we put on pitchers.

The roles of the truly elite aces like Corey Kluber and Max Scherzer seem unlikely to change very much. There’s little reason to disrupt the role of a guy who stands a solid chance to throw a complete game with brilliant results on any given day. But what if pitchers were used (and valued) based on a combination of the following five factors:

1) How efficiently can the pitcher get outs when throwing fewer pitches at maximum effort?
2) How efficiently can the pitcher get outs when throwing more pitches at an effort level that allows him longevity in the game?
3) At what point should the pitcher be pulled to prevent further exposure to the same hitters?
4) To what extent should the pitcher be shielded from his weak-side platoon?
5) To what extent should the pitcher be shielded from hitters who are particularly good at hitting the types of pitches he throws?

If pitching really is all about getting 27 outs while preventing runs with the highest possible efficiency (and it is), then the way a pitching staff is deployed might continue to become less of a formula and more of a jigsaw puzzle. That means shedding the labels of “starter” and “reliever” in favor of labels that describe hurlers in terms of the above factors. In fact, perhaps labels would end up entirely useless and it would prove a mistake to use them at all. In this hypothetical (future?)  environment, it’s likely that pitchers would be valued based on their efficiency in the unique situations they’d be asked to jump into.

Kluber, for instance, is a fairly uncommon asset; he’s an elite ace capable of preventing runs while going deep into games. Taijuan Walker, on the other hand, is a good example of someone who had significant splits last season after facing a lineup twice through. In 2017, Walker owned a 2.68 ERA and .298 opponent’s wOBA for the first two trips through the batting order, making him a very useful pitcher. However, when facing hitters for the third time, Walker’s ERA and wOBA ballooned to 5.97 and .357, respectively. Would he have been more useful to the Diamondbacks if they’d capped his outings at 18 batters faced, perhaps with the added benefit of being able to rest him for fewer days between outings?

Meanwhile, Hader and Green are somewhat of a throwback to the Mariano Rivera-type reliever capable of performing at maximum effort to achieve superhuman results against six to nine hitters. Hader’s done that 12 times so far this year, while Green’s accomplished the feat in seven appearances. Pitchers of this ilk are about as rare as those of Kluber’s, and the ability to get so many outs with such an astonishing level of efficiency is an incredible asset to any pitching staff. Perhaps these players will set a blueprint for others like them in the near future; even pitchers who can perform at 70-80% of Hader’s capabilities for a single trip through the order would be useful pitching every other day or so. There are plenty of starters who’ve had dramatic splits between their first and second trips through the other. Mike Foltynewicz comes to mind as an example, who limited opponents in 2017 to a .233/.302/.348 line the first time through, but allowed an uglier .295/.391/.516 line during his opposition’s second look.

With more pitching changes per game, lefty or righty specialists could end up being more useful than ever. Maybe that guy with the nasty slider and a batting practice fastball could still find a specialized role getting out opponents who have difficulty hitting breaking balls. The Craig Kimbrels and Corey Knebels who come in to get three or four outs would have their place, too. If the starter/reliever template begins to crumble, the traditional five-man rotation and seven- or eight-man bullpen might crumble with it, leaving behind a roster format in which the number of outs a pitcher is capable of getting might not matter quite so much as long as he’s capable of getting the outs he’s asked to get with a rate of efficiency that justifies his roster spot. Each of the 30 MLB pitching staffs could end up being its own unique cornucopia of pitcher types compiled cleverly assembled by its respective GM and used strategically and creatively by its skipper, the only rule being that it needs to prove adept at getting from zero to 27, game after game.

The question at that point becomes, how do we place a value on each pitcher in these new roles? What is the value of an average 100-pitch guy in comparison to an above-average twice-through-the-order hurler, and how do both compare to a guy like Ryan Dull who needs to be shielded from left-handed hitters but gets righties out nearly 80% of the time? If more teams begin to protect long-appearance pitchers from being exposed to the order a third time through, would the abundance and limited longevity of those pitchers make them less valuable, or would their efficiency and flexibility within the format help them prove to be just as valuable as an average 100-pitch guy?

The cop-out answer is that we’d have to wait to see all this happen in order to know. But it’s probably fair to think that teams would use stats like WPA to find the answer, or create entirely new stats to weight a pitcher’s efficiency against the number of total outs he’s tasked with getting in his particular role. It’s also pretty much a certainty that the market itself would have a say in the value of each class of pitcher. If twice-through-the-order type guys are abundant in a given year, teams may not be willing to pay as much for them. On the flip side, if many teams are in need of a once-through-the-order shutdown guy or a three to four out fireman to bridge the gap between longer-appearance guys, the cost of those players could increase based on supply and demand, much in the same way the value of a good second baseman goes up if more teams are lacking at the position.

The evolution of out-getting won’t simply end with the Rays’ latest experiment. There are clear advantages to be found in the creative deployment of pitchers that contrast heavily with baseball traditions, and with teams becoming more and more data driven, you can bet they’ll continue to search for more effective ways to get from zero to 27. Traditions aren’t rules, after all.

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It’s possible Giants outfielder Hunter Pence has played his last game with the team, Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports California observes. The Giants have to make a decision on Pence’s future within the next six days, when his minor league rehab assignment will end. In the event San Francisco releases Pence, who helped the club to two World Series titles as a younger player, it’ll have to eat the remainder of his $18.5MM salary. But if Pence gets another shot with the Giants, he’ll return having undergone some offensive adjustments with the help of private instructor Doug Latta – whose students also include Mac Williamson and the Dodgers’ Justin Turner – Pavlocic details. Pence feels “way better” after working with Latta, and has hit well in the minors since making the changes. The respected veteran got off to a rough start in the majors this year (.172/.197/.190 in 61 plate appearances) before going on the disabled list April 19 with a thumb issue.

More from the game’s West divisions…

  • The Angels expect Shohei Ohtani to make his next start during their upcoming series against the Tigers, which runs from Monday to Thursday, manager Mike Scioscia said Saturday (via Jeff Miller of the Los Angeles Times). Ohtani had been scheduled to start Sunday against the Yankees, but the Angels elected against that as a way to manage the phenom’s workload. The pitcher/hitter hasn’t taken the mound since last Sunday, when he cruised past the Rays to record his fifth quality start in seven attempts, but has been in the Angels’ starting lineup five times this week.
  • The free-falling Diamondbacks may welcome both lefty Robbie Ray and righty Shelby Miller back in mid-June, general manager Mike Hazen told reporters, including Kathleen Fitzgerald of AZCentral and Nick Piecoro of AZCentral. After getting off to a 24-11 start, the Diamondbacks have lost 14 of 16, perhaps thanks in part to the absences of Ray (strained oblique) and Taijuan Walker (Tommy John surgery) since late April. The D-backs’ banged-up rotation is hardly the primary reason for their slide (the club’s offense has only averaged two runs per game during its slump), but the returns of Ray and Miller should be welcome nonetheless. Along with Zack Greinke, Patrick Corbin and Zack Godley, Ray and Miller would help form a nice rotation on paper. Miller has been working back since he underwent a Tommy John procedure last May.
  • There was optimism about injured Dodgers left-hander Rich Hill earlier this week, but manager Dave Roberts suggested to Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times and other reporters Saturday that his return’s not exactly imminent. Hill’s still “a ways away” from returning from his long-running blister issues, per Roberts. The 38-year-old went back on the DL last Sunday, when Roberts estimated he’d miss at least four weeks. Fortunately for the surging Dodgers, Clayton Kershaw seems to be nearing a return from his own DL stint, and Hill replacement Ross Stripling has been brilliant this season. In a win over the Padres on Friday, Stripling struck out 10 and didn’t issue any walks across 6 2/3 innings of six-hit, one-run ball (unearned).
  • The Athletics made a series of moves Saturday, sending Santiago Casilla to the DL with a strained shoulder, optioning Josh Lucas to the minors and recalling Carlos Ramirez and Chris Bassitt. The most notable member of the group is Casilla, who ranks third among A’s relievers in innings pitched this year (21 2/3). Casilla opened his age-37 season with an appealing 3.32 ERA over that span, though he also totaled too few strikeouts and too many walks (14 in each case) and benefited from a .186 batting average on balls in play.

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