TODAY: Dunn’s MRI didn’t reveal any structural damage, but he does have a shoulder strain. (Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times was among those to report the news.) Dunn will be shut down from throwing for two weeks.
JUNE 18, 5:12 pm: As expected, the Mariners formally announced Nittoli’s selection. Reliever Yohan Ramirez has been recalled from Tacoma, while catcher Jose Godoy was optioned and Dunn was placed on the 10-day IL to create active roster space. Lewis was transferred to the 60-day IL to open a 40-man roster spot for Nittoli.
9:18 am: The Mariners on Friday will select the contract of right-hander Vinny Nittoli from Triple-A Tacoma, reports ESPN’s Jeff Passan (via Twitter). The move, which will require a corresponding 40-man transaction, marks the culmination of an eight-year journey to the big leagues for Nittoli — a 25th-round pick back in 2014 who turned 30 over the winter. The Mariners do have a pair of 60-day IL candidates in outfielder Kyle Lewis and first baseman Evan White, so either could be transferred over from the 10-day IL to accommodate Nittoli on the 40-man roster. White’s rehab from a hip strain was halted this week due to a setback.
It also appears likely that the M’s will place right-hander Justin Dunn on the 10-day injured list. The 25-year-old righty exited last night’s start after two shutout innings due to shoulder discomfort. Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times reported after the game that Dunn was headed for an MRI and could be placed on the IL for precautionary reasons, even if that imaging came back clean.
Nittoli was a senior sign by the Mariners out of Xavier University and spent three years solid but unremarkable numbers against younger competition in the lower levels of Seattle’s system. He was cut loose and spent the next two years pitching for the St. Paul Saints — then an independent club in the American Association — and for los Aguilas de Mexicali in the Mexican Winter League. Nittoli split the 2019 season between the Double-A affiliate for the Blue Jays and the Triple-A affiliate for the D-backs. He was set to spend the 2020 season in the Jays’ minor league ranks, but he wasn’t included in last summer’s 60-player pool following the resumption of play in the summer.
The well-traveled righty returned to the Mariners on a minor league deal over the winter, and he’s turned heads thus far in Tacoma. In a league that is once again seeing enormous levels of offensive output, Nittoli has held opponents to seven runs on 14 hits and five walks with 26 strikeouts in 18 innings out of the bullpen. The 3.50 ERA may not sound like much, but it ranks 37th in the entire league (min. 10 innings), and Nittoli is also fifth in Triple-A West with a 2.95 FIP and ninth with a 35.6 percent strikeout rate. It’s a small sample, of course, but his performance thus far has been strong.
As for Dunn, he’s out to a nice start in 2021 himself, having logged a 3.75 ERA through 50 1/3 frames. Location remains an issue for the righty, which was never more apparent than in his season debut when he walked eight batters in 4 2/3 frames. Since that woeful outing, Dunn has righted the ship with 45 2/3 innings of 3.55 ERA ball. He’s punched out 23.5 percent of his opponents in that time, and his 10.7 percent walk rate, while still north of the league average, is at least passable.
If Dunn indeed lands on the injured list, this would be his second such stint owing to shoulder discomfort. Dunn spent 10 days on the shelf with shoulder inflammation earlier this month and has only made two appearances since returning. It’s perhaps telling that he yielded five runs in three innings in the first of those two starts before exiting after two frames in last night’s effort.