Mariners GM Dipoto moving at slower pace this offseason

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SEATTLE — The usual dizzying offseason whirl of trades and signings have been replaced with a more pedestrian approach by the Seattle Mariners this year.

General manager Jerry Dipoto said Tuesday that’s by design and an indication of where he believes the Mariners are with their roster entering the next stage of their rebuilding plan.

“We don’t feel like we’ve been quiet, or slow,” Dipoto said. “If that’s what it seems to you all, I apologize. I know it’s not our normal rate of activity, but that is more where we are in our build, truly. We’ve added quite a bit to our team already.”

That’s not to say Dipoto won’t be busy over the next month before the Mariners report for spring training in Arizona. While the primary focus going into the 2021 season is going to be the continued development of Seattle’s young stars – highlighted by AL rookie of the year Kyle Lewis – and the eventual arrival of some top prospects, Dipoto still has a needs to fill before the start of the season.

Primarily, Dipoto would like to see another arm or two added to the bullpen, another possible starting pitcher brought into the mix and a left-handed bat for the lineup, either at second base or as a utility player who could be part of the outfield rotation.

“It has been a slow to develop offseason market, particularly at the top of free agency, but that hasn’t really been a focus for us,” Dipoto said. “I think you have seen over the course of particularly this last four or five weeks that the market is moving, and you’re starting to see a lot of players that you recognize, recognizable names coming off the board.”

The primary focus of Seattle’s offseason thus far has been on improving a bullpen that was among the worst in baseball a season ago.

So far, that’s meant the additions of Rafael Montero via trade from Texas and the signing of Keynan Middleton as a free agent. Seattle also signed right-handed starter Chris Flexen to a two-year deal.

The lack of moves is partly because the Mariners will go into spring training and the start of the season still trying to learn about some of their own players. Can Lewis replicate his rookie of the year performance over a full season? Can J.P. Crawford play Gold Glove shortstop for a full season? What about young starting pitchers Justus Sheffield and Justin Dunn?

The truncated 2020 season gave Seattle a taste of what some of its young prospects might bring. But until they can prove it over a longer stretch, Dipoto plans to remain cautious about making any splashy moves.

That being said, if the Mariners find themselves sniffing around a playoff spot come midsummer, Dipoto’s approach might change.

“If things break well for us and we get into midsummer, and we stay close to this thing and we do have an opportunity to sneak up on the back of the playoff field, that’s a possibility for us and would be a goal,” Dipoto said. “Young teams tend to gel quicker than you might think. We can’t go in expecting that we’re going to run to the top of the American League West. But I think we can set the goal of competing for a playoff spot and we’ll see how it goes.”

Pujols has 2 more RBIs, Cardinals beat Pirates 8-7 in 10

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PITTSBURGH – Albert Pujols drove in two more runs and the St. Louis Cardinals went on to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-7 in 10 innings Tuesday night.

Pujols hit a two-run single in the third inning to push his career total to 2,218 RBIs. That came a night after he broke a tie with Babe Ruth for second place on the career list. Hank Aaron holds the record with 2,287.

Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol then removed the 42-year-old Pujols at the end of the inning. St. Louis opens postseason play Friday when it hosts a best-of-three National League wild-card series.

Juan Yepez gave the Cardinals the win when he hit a tiebreaking single with one in the 10th inning off Chase De Jong (6-3) to score automatic runner Ben Deluzio.

“Tonight was interesting because you’re fairly scripted in who you want to use and who you don’t want to use and what you want tomorrow to look like so you can get ready for Friday,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said. “It was a good one to still figure out a way to come out on top.”

The Cardinals threw out the potential tying run at home in the bottom of the 10th when automatic runner Kevin Newman tried to score from second base on Oneil Cruz‘s line single off the glove of first baseman Alec Burleson. The ball deflected to second baseman Brendon Donovan, who threw home to catcher Andrew Knizner.

The Pirates challenged the call, but it was upheld on video review.

“I thought we were going to get it overturned,” Newman said. “I just thought he didn’t tag me until he got higher up on the body.”

It was the Pirates’ 100th loss, the second year in a row they have reached that mark.

The Cardinals got two hits each from Donovan, Corey Dickerson, Knizner and Paul DeJong.

Cruz had three hits for the Pirates and Bryan Reynolds, Rodolfo Castro, Jack Suwinski, Ke'Bryan Hayes and Ji-Hwan Bae added two apiece. Miguel Andujar drove in two runs.

Chris Stratton (10-4) pitched two scoreless innings for the win.

“They weren’t the prettiest two innings I’ve ever pitched but I got a great play from the defense in the 10th inning to help me out,” Stratton said. “It was a good play all the way around.’

Pujols’ hit put the Cardinals ahead 3-1 but the Pirates answered with six runs in the bottom of the third. Andujar’s run-scoring double highlighted an inning that includes RBI singles by Castro, Suwinski, Ben Gamel and Bae.

The Cardinals then scored four runs in the seventh inning to tie the score at 7-all. Donovan hit an RBI single, Dickerson drove in two runs with a double and the tying run scored on a throwing error by Cruz, the rookie shortstop.

Both starting pitchers lasted just 2 2/3 innings. The Cardinals’ Dakota Hudson was rocked for seven runs and nine hits while the Pirates’ JT Brubaker allowed three runs on four hits.

Brubaker was activated from the injured list before the game. He had been out since Sept. 16 with right lat discomfort.

HELSLEY HURT

Reliever Ryan Helsley, the Cardinals’ closer, left in the eighth inning with a jammed right middle finger. Helsley was injured after catching a line drive by Bae and using his hands to brace himself while dodging a piece of a broken bat.

Helsley said he expects to be ready to pitch Friday.

“I don’t think there was anything super wrong with it,” Helsley said. `Just give it some rest and let it resolve itself.”

ROSTER MOVES

The Pirates optioned right-hander Roansy Contreras to Triple-A Indianapolis to clear a roster spot for Brubaker. They also recalled infielder/outfielder Tucapita Marcano from Indianapolis and optioned catcher Jose Godoy to the same club.

PIRATES AWARDS

Center fielder Bryan Reynolds was voted the winner of the Roberto Clemente Award, emblematic of the Pirates’ MVP, by the Pittsburgh chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America.

Mitch Keller won the Steve Blass Award for best pitcher. Former infielder Michael Chavis was voted the Chuck Tanner Good Guy Award.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Cardinals: OF Tyler O'Neill (strained right hamstring) has been ruled out for the wild-card series but St. Louis is hopeful he can play in the NLDS round if it advances. . 3B Nolan Arenado (left quadriceps tightness) missed his second straight game but could play Wednesday.

UP NEXT

Cardinals: Have not decided on a starter for Wednesday, though Marmol said LHP Matthew Liberatore (2-1, 5.46) and RHP Jake Woodford (4-0, 2.33) are possibilities.

Pirates: RHP Johan Oviedo (4-3, 3.12), who was acquired from the Cardinals on Aug. 1, gets the start.