The pride of East Stroudsburg University made his first major league start.
The thing is, rookie righthander Matt Festa isn’t a starter—at least he hasn’t been since the Mariners selected him out of the Pennsylvania school in the seventh round in 2016. In college, he set the Warriors’ all-time records in just about every pitching category.
Festa tossed a 1-2-3 first inning as the Mariners’ opener on Sept. 19 against the top three hitters for the Astros.
“I thought he handled it great,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “Young guy who had never been in that situation before, but he went through the same routine he always does in the clubhouse before the game.
“He threw the same number of pitches in the bullpen just like he was coming out of the pen.”
Festa is one of the Mariners’ few coveted pitching prospects because, well, general manager Jerry Dipoto traded all of them to improve the big league club. But the 25-year-old Festa is the first Mariners draft pick in the Dipoto era (since 2016) to appear in the big leagues.
Festa spent most of the season at Double-A Arkansas, but in three stints with Seattle and through five appearances he had pitched 6.1 innings and allowed one run. That was after posting a 2.76 ERA over 49 innings in the Texas League this year with 67 strikeouts.
“We do have some depth with the relievers,” farm director Andy McKay said. “And Matt’s ability to throw strikes is a bit of a separator. I think he was able to command the baseball a little better within the strike zone, and instead of just throwing a strike, he was able to make a pitch and execute and that made him a little better.”
Not all of the Mariners’ best pitching prospects are relievers. Former Stetson righthander Logan Gilbert, the club’s 2018 first-rounder, is set to return next year after logging a lot of innings as a college junior and dealing with mono after signing.
However, former Minnesota high school righthander Sam Carlson, a 2017 third-rounder, is not expected to return until 2020 after he had Tommy John surgery this year.
>> First baseman Evan White headlines the Mariners’ contingent in the Arizona Fall League.
>> Other prospects headed to the AFL are outfielder Ian Miller, catcher Joe DeCarlo, middle infielder Chris Mariscal, lefthander Anthony Misiewicz and righthanders David McKay and Wyatt Mills. The team will be coached by Double-A Arkansas manager Daren Brown.