Mariners' Cishek returns to closing role with new team
PEORIA, Ariz. (AP) Steve Cishek will soon be working about as far from south Florida as one can be, which is a good thing for him.
The veteran reliever with the sidearm delivery has a new opportunity as the closer for the Seattle Mariners, only a few months removed from that role with the Miami Marlins.
In between, Cishek was sent down to the minors, then traded to the St. Louis Cardinals in July after having lost his job as closer in Miami.
He signed with the Mariners in free agency in December, and looks forward to pitching in typically pitcher-friendly Safeco Field. Cishek saw the Mariners as his best destination given their need for an established save specialist.
''I got the phone call from my agent saying they were looking for someone in a closing role and I was all ears,'' Cishek said. ''Everyone I talked to said this is the best ballpark to play in. There's literally not one ballplayer I talked to at the gym I work out at that said, `Oh, Seattle is not a good place.' Like everyone wants to play there.''
The three pitchers with the most saves for the Mariners in 2015 were Fernando Rodney, Carson Smith and Tom Wilhelmsen. And all three are gone; Rodney was traded before the end of last season, and Smith and Wilhelmsen were dealt in offseason deals.
Cishek saved 34 games in 36 chances with a 2.33 ERA for the Marlins three years ago, then had 39 saves in 43 opportunities and a 3.17 ERA in 2014.
But in 2015, Cishek got off to a rough start. He gave up four earned runs and walked two while getting only one out in his first outing of the season. Three days later, he blew a save, and by the end of May he was 1-5 with four blown saves and three saves.
The Marlins sent Cishek to Double-A Jacksonville.
''I was throwing the ball well in spring but it didn't really translate well into the start of the season. My arm slot was a little lower than it typically had been. Wasn't throwing as hard. My stuff was a little flat, I'd say up in the zone,'' Cishek said. ''I wasn't able to get my hand on top of the ball. That kind of translated into getting in my head a little bit and in the ninth inning, if you're not feeling comfortable mechanically, you've got to go out there with what you've got and unfortunately it wasn't enough.''
Upon his return to the majors, Cishek credited Miami pitching coach Chuck Hernandez (since relieved of duties) and bullpen coach Reid Cornelius with helping him get back on track.
''I was glad I was able to battle back from such a rough start, kind of get my stuff back together,'' Cishek said. ''Ultimately it was a good learning experience for me, just glad to have a clean slate and start the season.''
The Mariners have a new-look roster this season, but there might not be a more important offseason signing than Cishek if he can return to being a dependable closer.
''He had a lot of success doing it for a few years with Miami. Ran into some tough times early. He kind of got back on track when he went to St. Louis,'' manager Scott Servais said. ''We're playing off that a little bit and he has some track record. So you have to start somewhere, and I think one of the reasons we were able to sign Steve and bring him over is because we had an opportunity. He realized that. We talked to him about it. He'll get every opportunity to be our guy at the end of a game.''
Cishek said he'll keep an even keel about such pressure.
''It doesn't really change anything. I always try to keep things simple and go out there with what I have. I just go out there and compete, that's all I know how to do,'' he said.