Peoria, Arizona —— In a year where he reached the big leagues for the first time, an Arizona Fall League championship wasn’t initially on the list of things Max Povse was hoping to accomplish when the Seattle Mariners prospect found himself and his Peoria Javelinas teammates the last men standing in late November. But it was a nice, if unexpected, ending to what’s been a whirlwind year for Povse in his new organization — and in a world as unforgiving as pro baseball, you’ll take a championship ring anywhere you can get it.
“That was a whole lot of fun,” Povse told Baseball Census about the AFL championship in Peoria. “I had a great experience, we had a great group of guys, and we played some good baseball. It’s a short season, but any time you can win a championship, you take it. That’s what we’re playing for. And maybe we can take that and remember how it feels when we’re playing next year.”
Next year, especially for the Seattle Mariners — and doubly so for Max Povse — is supposed to be the big one. Expectations in Seattle are sky-high after a series of win-now moves over the last twelve months and a hard but unsuccessful run at this offseason’s biggest prize. Expectations are equally high for Povse himself, after the 6’8″ righty got the briefest of tastes of The Show in 2017: three relief appearances with the Mariners and just 3.2 innings of work for the club after splitting the summer between Double-A Arkansas and Triple-A Tacoma. It’s a childhood dream and an incredible accomplishment to reach the big leagues, but just three appearances leaves a man itching for more — and makes for a long winter waiting for the chance to go out and earn his way back.
“It was nice to use the Fall League was a stepping stone, as a way to get ready for next year and be prepared for spring training,” the pitcher said. “I talked to some of the young guys and clued them in on what to expect when they get to the big leagues. But for me, I really still look at the big leagues as a place I need to get back to and hopefully stay. That’s been my focus. I’m going to come out in spring training and pitch for a job there.”
Beyond the good feeling that comes from finally reaching the big leagues — and now being fully acclimated to his new club after being acquired by the Seattle Mariners in the Alex Jackson trade with the Atlanta Braves a year ago — the UNC Greensboro product is poised to fight for a big league job in an organization that could make noise next fall far beyond AFL glory. For Max Povse, that may mean a move to the bullpen in 2018 if he’s to keep a job in the big leagues. He pitched well as a rotation arm at the AFL, and his deep repertoire and physical projection will help in his quest for a starting gig, but the Mariners floated a bullpen trial balloon with him last summer, and this year, it may stick.
“The bullpen is a little different,” Povse, who pitched eight times in relief with Tacoma before his three big league relief appearances, mused. “You can come in and really let it fly every pitch, but when I did that, I wasn’t commanding the strike zone quite as well as I had been when I was a starter. That got me into some trouble. But that’s something that I learned about the bullpen last year. I had never been in the bullpen before, but I think it was good, because it gives me versatility. I know I can do both moving forward, however the organization sees me.”
Even though the righty had never relieved in his career up until this summer, he has some of the attributes you’d expect for success there, even in a long-man role; and with a mid-90s fastball in his back pocket to use as needed, Povse has some sneaky ability to “let it fly,” as he puts it. If there’s a swingman or long relief role there come April when camp breaks, Povse will take it — just as he would a rotation spot, should he win the job. The focus here is doing whatever it takes to help the team win.
The Seattle Mariners haven’t yet given an indication whether he’ll be starting or relieving — or a combination of both — and so the righty now must plan for either one. Really, the plan is simpler than that even: pitch to get guys out, no matter the role, and find his way back to Seattle to stick on the 25-man roster for good. Considering the high expectations the club has for itself in 2018, Povse’s lofty personal goals will fit in just fine.
“However they want to use me, as a starter or a reliever, I just want to be there and help the team win,” Povse said. “The ball club is trying to win right now, and we’ve got the players to do it. The ultimate goal is to pitch in the big leagues, and help the Mariners win, so that’s what I’m going to try to do.”