Oct. 3: The Mariners have made it official, announcing that Rodriguez has been reinstated from the IL, with catcher Curt Casali being reinstated from the paternity list. In corresponding moves, catcher Brian O’Keefe and infielder Abraham Toro were optioned to Triple-A Tacoma. Additionally, right-hander Phillips Valdez, who was designated for assignment last week, cleared waivers and was outrighted to Tacoma.
Oct. 2: Monday is the first day that Julio Rodriguez is eligible to be activated from the 10-day injured list, and Mariners manager Scott Servais said the team is hoping that the star rookie will indeed be ready to return as soon as possible. Servais told The Seattle Times’ Shane Lantz and other reporters that Rodriguez will take part in baseball activities (including “a bunch of swings“) today, and if he feels okay, Rodriguez will be back in the lineup for tomorrow’s game against the Tigers.
Rodriguez has been sidelined by a lower back strain, and though the injury wasn’t thought to be too serious, the Mariners felt an IL stint was necessary given how Rodriguez had been missing games even prior to his placement on the injured list. Even with the M’s in the heat of the postseason chase, the team naturally didn’t want to take any risks with their young cornerstone, and the caution paid off — Seattle still clinched a wild card berth, and will be heading to the playoffs for the first time since 2001.
The next step is to get the team as close to peak form as possible, and the Mariners will need Rodriguez to be ready to go. As Servais noted, “the thing you always worry about when you are out 10 days is timing. What’s the timing going to be like at the plate?….That’s why I want to get Julio in there as soon as we can, to see how his body reacts and also get him as many at-bats as we can, and feel good about where he is at heading into the playoffs.”
This is Rodriguez’s second IL stint of his rookie season, as he also missed just slightly beyond the 10-day minimum in late July and early August due to a right wrist contusion. These brief injury absences have been pretty much the only down notes in an otherwise spectacular debut for Rodriguez, who has hit .280/.342/.502 with 27 homers and 25 steals over 549 plate appearances. Rodriguez is the favorite to win AL Rookie of the Year honors, and the Mariners have already cemented him as the face of the franchise by signing J-Rod to a long-term extension that is worth at least $210MM over 12 years (and could ultimately be a whopping 18-year, $470MM deal).