SEATTLE (AP) – In Robinson Cano, Felix Hernandez and James Paxton, the Seattle Mariners might have more star power on the disabled list than on the active roster.
Seattle has been slammed with injuries through the first six weeks of the season, leaving a club expected to contend in the American League desperately trying hang around .500 in the hope of getting close to full health near midseason.
Seattle has not played a game all season with the starting lineup and rotation it expected when spring training began in February, instead ending up in a constant scramble just to find 25 players.
“I don’t know if there is any rationalization behind it. We’ve gotten bit by the bug,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said.
“I’ve never gone through anything like this, ever,” Servais added.
The injuries have created a dizzying whirlwind of activity in the front office. Seattle has made 69 transactions on the 40-man roster since the start of the regular season. From May 9 through Wednesday, the Mariners were forced to make 16 roster moves, most of them to a depleted staff that used 24 pitchers in the first 40 games.
For general manager Jerry Dipoto, it’s been a daily chore trying to piece together the roster.
“It’s a challenge for the players,” Dipoto said. “Through absolute necessity, we’ve thrown a lot of new faces on a lot of different days, and we don’t have much choice.”
It’s not so much the quantity of injuries – although it’s becoming a significant total – but the quality of the players that have gone down.
Four of Seattle’s five projected opening day rotation members are on the DL, and only Paxton (forearm strain) has a chance of being back around June 1. Hernandez (shoulder inflammation) likely won’t return until mid-June, Drew Smyly (flexor strain) has yet to throw a regular-season pitch and Hisashi Iwakuma (shoulder inflammation) could be out until July.
And so instead of Paxton and Hernandez, Seattle is being led in the rotation by Ariel Miranda and Yovani Gallardo. Christian Bergman pitched the best 7 1/3 innings of his career in a win over Oakland on Wednesday night, so maybe the Mariners have something there. Thursday’s scheduled starter is Sam Gaviglio, a 26-year-old rookie with a 4.38 ERA over three seasons at Triple-A.
Losing four pieces from the rotation could cripple most any team, and other issues have exasperated Seattle’s pitching problem. Shae Simmons was expected to be a key part of the bullpen but hasn’t pitched in a regular season game. Reliever Evan Marshall threw just a couple of pitches in a recent outing before injuring his hamstring and landing on the 60-day DL. Ryan Weber was called up from the minors last weekend, throwing 3 2/3 innings before walking off the field early with an arm injury that was eventually diagnosed as a rare nerve issue.
Mix in the struggles of Edwin Diaz – recently demoted from the closer’s role – and it’s no wonder Seattle has the AL’s second-worst team ERA at 4.75.
“When you lose 80 percent of your rotation, it’s not as easy as going and signing one starting pitcher. That’s like putting a Band-Aid on a gun shot,” Dipoto said. “We have to wait until our health allows us to get back to full strength.”
The lineup has only fared slightly better. Cano went on the 10-day DL this week with a quadriceps strain but should be back in a week. Emerging outfielder Mitch Haniger hurt an oblique and has been out since April 26, although he could also return soon. Nelson Cruz has played through leg troubles for nearly a month, running at full speed only when needed. Kyle Seager has missed a handful of days with a hip issue, too.
Perhaps the oddest injury situation was that of utility player Shawn O’Malley. Expected to be the 25th player on the roster, O’Malley missed the end of spring training with appendicitis. Once he recovered from surgery, O’Malley started a throwing program – and proceeded to suffer a shoulder injury that may keep him out the entire season.
It’s been that kind of year.
“Eventually we will become all healthy again,” Servais said. “We’ll become whole and I’ll be really curious to see what our team looks like at that point.”
Copyright 2017 The Associated Press.