The left-handed pitcher is back for his third tour of duty with the Seattle Mariners after the team announced that Roenis Elias signed a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. Fans may remember Elias as the ultra-athletic lefty with a big curveball the team traded in the summer of 2019 for left-handed reliever Aaron Fletcher.
The 32-year-old Elias will need to earn a roster spot in the spring, but he’ll have a strong chance to do so. The Mariners current bullpen projects to have just one left-handed pitcher and Seattle has prioritized reliever who can get more than three outs to help protect starters coming off the shortened season. Elias missed all of the 2020 season with a flexor bundle strain in his left arm, but was actually quite solid the last time we saw him.
In 2019, Elias posted a 3.64 ERA, an 8.6 K/9, and a 3.1 BB/9 in 47 innings with the Mariners. He utilizes three pitches, relying heavily on his fastball which sits in the 92-95 MPH range and offers elite spin rates (91s percentile in 2019), something the Mariners are well known for hunting. After utilizing an nice curveball early in his career, Elias has since come to rely on the changeup as his primary off-speed pitch, which generated a 32% whiff rate in 2019. The curveball is still a solid offering, giving Elias three pitches that earn 55-grades to a go along with his 45-grade control and command.
Nobody will celebrate what Elias can do on the field, but he is a fan favorite who can help plug the gaps on the pitching staff, with experience as a starter, long reliver, one inning guy, and for a brief period in 2019, the closer. Versatility in the bullpen from an arm you trust to be solid isn’t a bad thing, and to get it for what is the MLB equivalent of free is a nice addition for Jerry Dipoto and the Seattle Mariners.