Blackley to the Bigs

LHP Travis Blackley (Photo: Mariners)

Since the first month of the season, two things have happened inside the M's organization. Mariner fans have been crying for the youth of the franchise to be given a shot, and Travis Blackley hasn't lost a game. Now both matters join together, as the 21-year-old left-hander takes the pill to the hill this afternoon versus the Texas Rangers in his Major League debut.

Just four years ago, the Mariners sent scouts to the Junior World Championships to watch a certain left-handed pitcher, in hopes that he would impress enough to get his name on the dotted line.

Instead of seeing a lopsided victory in favor of their prospect's squad, due to the teenager dominating the game, the scouts ended up signing two players. First, the pitcher they came to see, Shin-Soo Choo, and then the kid that dazzled as Choo's opposing pitcher, Australian Travis Blackley.

While Choo was seen more as a top notch blue-chip hitter, Blackley's signing was simply to add depth to the pitching in Mariners' organization.

After less than four seasons, Blackley has slid through the farm system with ease and will make his Major League debut later today against the division-leading Texas Rangers.

The M's top left-handed pitching prospect was 7-2 with a league best 2.63 ERA in 14 games with Triple-A Tacoma after going 17-3 and winning the Pitcher of the Year Award in 2003 with Double-A San Antonio.

The move is likely a double-sided event for Blackley, as he will replace former teammate and friend Clint Nageotte on the 25-man roster. More moves are expected as the season progresses and Nageotte is certain to be recalled, along with several other possibilities such as Justin Leone, Bucky Jacobsen, and reliever George Sherrill. Right-hander Gil Meche is also expected to spend much of the second half in a Mariner uniform after being sent down last month to get things back on track.

Blackley will attack the Rangers with two fastballs, a two-seamer that rides in on right-handers, and the traditional four-seamer that tops out in the 90 mph range. His out pitches are a devastating changeup and solid slider that allow him to pile up a few strikeouts and keep hitters off balance. Blackley's best attributes are his maturity and mound presence, and he will use both with every pitch he throws to every hitter that steps to the plate.

The Match Up

Seattle Mariners (31-45) vs. Texas Rangers (44-31)

Travis Blackley (MLB debut) vs. John Wasdin (1-0, 5.00 ERA)

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