Feb 26, 2014; Tempe, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Angels pitcher Mark Sappington poses for a portrait during photo day at Tempe Diablo Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Mark Sappington: His bullpen conversion will take a little time
The Rays did a nice job getting Sappington in exchange for Cesar Ramos. Ramos was always their long reliever, yet they acquired a potential late-inning arm when they traded him. Of course, the picture is more complicated than that–the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim were only willing to deal Sappington because of the risk involved with him.
Sappington is coming off a season where he managed just a 6.02 ERA in 17 starts, 25 relief appearances, and 113.1 innings pitched between High-A and Double-A. After he was converted to relief, however, Sappington put up a 3.38 ERA and a 49-10 strikeout to walk ratio in 32 innings pitched. However, there were a few problems: he was pitching at High-A, a level he had conquered as a starter the previous year, and he allowed 7 home runs (2.0 per 9 innings).
Sappington’s Arizona Fall League stint made all of his concerns a little clearer. In 10 innings pitched, he managed just a 5.25 ERA and an 8-7 strikeout to walk ratio. That was disappointing for a player expected to start zooming through the minor leagues thanks to a fastball touching 97 MPH, a good changeup, and a decent slider.
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Given Mark Sappington’s stuff, though, the Rays have plenty to work with. Sappington didn’t dominate in his first ever stint as a reliever, but especially now that he is in a system with plenty of relief depth, the Rays didn’t need him to. The Rays took another pitcher who struggled in his first bullpen stint, Alex Torres, and refined his mechanics before watching him dominate in the major leagues the next year. The plan will be the same for Sappington, although the Rays won’t mind if it takes another year for him to break through.