When he was promoted to Triple-A Tacoma just over three weeks ago, I wrote that hard-throwing 22-year-old reliever Stephen Pryor, "could be first in line to join the Mariners in Seattle" of all the minor league arms. That prediction appears to be exactly what is happening at this moment as the Mariners issued a Press Release following the club's historic 21-8 win last night informing the media that right-handed reliever Steve Delabar had been optioned to Tacoma and that a corresponding roster move would be made prior to the series opener with the White Sox on Friday.
Pryor -- who has yet to allow an earned run in nine appearances and 12 innings in Triple-A -- is the logical choice to replace Delabar as the two are both late-inning, right-handed relievers. Delabar has shown much improved command this season for Seattle and was limiting hitters to a .200 average against him, but he has fallen victim to the long ball, surrendering seven home runs in just 24 1/3 innings of work. Pryor hasn't allowed a home run since July 4th of 2011, when he allowed two to Stockton while pitching for High-A High Desert, and hasn't allowed an earned run of any kind since his first appearance of the season in 2012, way back on April 5th. Since then he has gone 27 innings, allowing just 10 hits, walking 11 and piling up 34 strikeouts in 19 appearances across the Double-A and Triple-A levels of the Mariners system.
With the struggles of closer Brandon League, the bullpen is a bit in flux right now, with Manager Eric Wedge suggesting the ever popular "bullpen by committee" approach a few days ago. And Wedge seems to be sticking to that for now, as Tom Wilhelmsen finished out a game the other night. Pryor's high-90s fastball and hard cutter offer another power weapon at the end of the game for the skipper, and if he can continue his success being born of command and overpowering stuff in this audition at the big league level, Pryor, who I rated as the club's #13 prospect before the 2012 season, figures to get a real shot to take over as closer for Seattle soon -- possibly even before the end of the 2012 season.