2:17pm: The Mariners announced that Hancock has been placed on the 15-day IL due to a shoulder strain. A timeline hasn’t yet been provided. Seattle has also reinstated shortstop J.P. Crawford from the injured list, recalled righty Darren McCaughan from Triple-A Tacoma and optioned infielder/outfielder Sam Haggerty to Tacoma.
12:20pm: Mariners righty Emerson Hancock left yesterday’s game — just the third start of his big league career — after two shutout innings due to what the team announced as a right shoulder strain. Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times writes that Hancock is likely headed to the injured list with a lat injury of some degree. The team hasn’t yet formally announced that move.
Hancock, 24, looked like he was breezing through his first two innings, holding the Astros scoreless and yielding just two hits with two strikeouts on 31 pitches. Manager Scott Servais told Divish and others after the game that Hancock felt something “grab” in his shoulder/lat during that second frame, however.
An injury to Hancock all but derails the Mariners’ plans to move to a six-man rotation before the arrangement ever got underway. Right-hander Bryan Woo is expected to return from the injured list this week, but his activation will now simply push Seattle back to five starters. He’ll join Luis Castillo, George Kirby, Logan Gilbert and Bryce Miller in Servais’ starting five.
The advent of a six-man rotation might have allowed the Mariners to more organically manage the workloads of young starters like Hancock, Kirby, Miller and Woo. The Mariners could still go the six-man route if they’re comfortable giving regular starts to righty Adam Oller or journeyman left-hander Tommy Milone down the stretch, but it’s not clear whether either of those scenarios is under consideration.
An injury to Hancock at this stage of the season is rather ill-timed. The former No. 6 overall draft pick (2020) was just getting his feet wet in the Majors, and he’d also only recently surpassed his total workload from the 2022 season. Hancock has thrown a career-high 110 innings this year, and the Mariners surely hoped to push that number a bit further in hopes of building him up for a larger workload in subsequent seasons. They may still get that chance, depending on the severity of the injury in question, but even a minimal stay on the injured list would sideline Hancock into early September and cost him a couple of starts.
The Mariners’ success in 2023 is largely attributable to both the quality and depth of their starting pitching staff. Seattle starters rank sixth in the Majors with a 3.86 ERA and are one of just three teams with 700-plus innings from their rotation at present, trailing only the Twins and Astros in that regard — and each by a margin of two or fewer innings. Had Hancock not incurred this injury, Mariners starters may well lead the big leagues in innings pitched.
Assuming the IL stint indeed goes through, Hancock will join southpaws Robbie Ray and Marco Gonzales on the shelf. Woo is also on the IL at the moment, though the expectation has been that he’ll return this week.
The Mariners have been baseball’s hottest team this month, churning out 14 wins against four losses. That follows up a similarly hot July, where their 17 wins were tied for the most in baseball. Dating back to July 1, the Mariners have played at an outstanding 31-13 clip. They’re now in possession of the third and final AL Wild Card spot and sit just three games back of the division lead in an increasingly tight AL West race.