May 19: The Mariners announced that Elias has been returned to Triple-A Tacoma. That he wasn’t passed through waivers indicates that he was indeed treated as a Covid substitute player, despite the fact that the team did not originally specify him as one. He’ll remain with the organization but won’t occupy a spot on the 40-man roster. Steckenrider, meanwhile, has been reinstated from the restricted list.
May 16: The Mariners have selected the contract of left-hander Roenis Elias from Triple-A Tacoma, per a team announcement. Right-hander Drew Steckenrider, meanwhile, has been placed on the restricted list in advance of their forthcoming three-game series against the Blue Jays in Toronto. Steckenrider is temporarily removed from the 40-man roster while on the restricted list, so the Mariners didn’t need to make an additional move to accommodate the return of Elias, who pitched with Seattle from 2014-15 and 2018-19.
Elias, 33, returned to the Mariners in hopes of a third stint when he signed a minor league deal prior to the 2021 season. He tore his left elbow’s ulnar collateral ligament during Spring Training 2021, however, and missed the entire season after the subsequent Tommy John surgery. He’s healthy again, having pitched 14 2/3 innings of 4.30 ERA ball with an 11-to-4 K/BB ratio in Triple-A Tacoma so far in 2022.
Elias has spent parts of four previous seasons with the Mariners, and while he’s also pitched with the Red Sox and Nationals, he’s never found much success outside Seattle. In 377 career innings as a Mariner, the Cuban-born southpaw has a 3.75 ERA, 14 saves and a shutout (during his 2014 run as a starter). He’s logged a combined 11 innings between Boston and Washington, surrendering 15 runs in those brief stints.
It could be a short stay on the roster for Elias, although it’s worth noting that the Mariners did not classify him as a Covid-related “substitute” player. Rather, Seattle made formal announcement of his selection to the 40-man roster. Team-by-team terminology tends to vary with respect to Covid substitutes, but the implication in this instance certainly seems to be that there’s some degree of permanence to this move. If that’s indeed the case, Elias can’t be sent back to Triple-A unless he first passes through outright waivers unclaimed. Even then, he’d have the requisite service time to reject an outright assignment to a minor league affiliate, should he choose.
As for Steckenrider, he’ll be away from the team for this three-game set and presumably rejoin them Thursday when they continue the current road trip in Boston. Travel regulations in Canada prevent unvaccinated athletes from entering the country to compete against Canadian-based teams.
Steckenrider, 31, was a revelation for the Mariners last year after signing a minor league deal. In 67 innings, he pitched to a flat 2.00 ERA with 14 saves, seven holds, a 21.7% strikeout rate and a 6.4% walk rate. It looked to be the start of an impressive rebound for Steckenrider, who shined as a setup man with the Marlins early in his career before injuries derailed his 2019-20 seasons. However, he’s stumbled again in 2022, limping to a 4.85 ERA with diminished strikeout and walk rates (15% and 8.3%, respectively). To Steckenrider’s credit, he’s been dogged by a bloated .356 average on balls in play, but even if one were to chalk some of his struggles up to that woeful BABIP, the sharp downturn in his K-BB% is nevertheless a concern. He’s being paid a $3.1MM salary this season and can be controlled through 2023 via arbitration.