The Mariners announced the activation of Kendall Graveman and Justin Dunn from the injured list. In corresponding moves, Keynan Middleton was optioned to Triple-A Tacoma, while Yacksel Ríos was designated for assignment.
Graveman went on the COVID-19 IL on May 23. That halted what has been a brilliant 2021 season for the right-hander. Graveman has pitched 16 2/3 scoreless innings out of the Seattle bullpen over his first 14 appearances. He’s averaging a career-high 96.9 MPH on his sinker, backed up by a slider that has been one of the game’s best swing-and-miss offerings. Graveman has punched out a very strong 29.3% of opponents against a tiny 5.2% walk rate.
It’s a big season for Graveman, who is slated to hit free agency this winter for the first time. If he can continue to perform at something approaching this level down the stretch, he’ll position himself as one of the top relievers on the market. That impending free agency also makes him one of the sport’s more interesting trade candidates in advance of this summer’s July 30 deadline. At 31-33, the Mariners have fallen into fourth place in the AL West, five games back in the race for the second wild card. There’s still time to make up ground, but the Mariners have the AL’s second-worst run differential (-58), so they’ll need to play at a significantly better level if they’re to hang around the postseason picture.
Dunn went on the 10-day IL on June 1 with right shoulder inflammation. The injury was never expected to be particularly serious, and he’ll indeed return after a minimal IL stint. Dunn, who has a 3.18 ERA/5.08 SIERA across 45 1/3 frames this season, will start tonight’s game against the Indians.
Seattle just acquired Ríos in a minor deal with the Rays last week. The 27-year-old had pitched to a 0.66 ERA with a fantastic 34.7% strikeout rate with Tampa Bay’s Triple-A affiliate, piquing the interest of the Mariners front office. He’s given up three runs in as many innings since the trade, with a pair of strikeouts and walks apiece. The Mariners will have a week to trade Ríos or place him on outright waivers. Having previously been outrighted in his career, Ríos would have the right to elect free agency if he passes through the wire unclaimed.