- There’s some welcome news on the injury front for the Mariners, who watched lefty James Paxton through four innings and 55 pitches tonight in a rehab outing, as MLB.com’s Greg Johns reports (Twitter links). The expectation is that he’ll take the ball for Seattle on Wednesday. Fellow rehabbing starters Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma are slated for bullpen sessions in the coming days, too, leading skipper Scott Servais to say that the club is finally “starting to see light at the end of the tunnel.”
Both players have been optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City to open their tenures with the new club. To create roster space, outfielder Andrew Toles and southpaw Scott Kazmir were shifted to the 60-day DL.
Freeman, 29, is a left-handed hitter with experience all over the field — the bulk of it coming at second base. He has struggled in two brief cracks at the majors in the past two seasons, but has shown quite a bit more in the upper minors. Indeed, through 1,245 Triple-A plate appearances over parts of four seasons, Freeman owns a .316/.378/.427 batting line with 113 walks against just 180 strikeouts. He also has hit only nine home runs in that span, so clearly it would be unwise to expect much in the power department.
As for Heston, it’s interesting to see him land with the Dodgers, who saw him emerge with the rival San Francisco Giants back in 2015. He ended that year with a no-hitter and 177 2/3 innings of 3.95 ERA pitching on his ledger, but has only thrown ten MLB frames since. Heston, 29, was throwing well in his time this year at Triple-A, though, with a 3.41 ERA and 8.0 K/9 against 3.1 BB/9 over 31 2/3 frames.
The Mariners have acquired outfielder Andrew Aplin from the Astros, per a club announcement. Cash or a player to be named later will head to Houston in return. To create room on the 40-man roster, Seattle has designated righty Chris Heston for assignment.
[RELATED: Updated Mariners Depth Chart]
Aplin, 26, had just been designated for assignment when the ’Stros had a need for a 40-man spot. He’ll now head to the division-rival Mariners, who carry a variety of young outfielders on their 40-man roster — a situation with plenty of competition but also a good bit of opportunity.
Seattle is surely intrigued by Aplin’s ability to manage the strike zone, make contact, and get on base. He owns a .375 OBP through thirty games at Triple-A this year. But Aplin has also failed to show much else with the bat at the highest level of the minors, with a composite .245/.341/.329 batting line through 953 total plate appearances over four seasons. He did manage nine home runs in 598 plate appearances at the High-A level back in 2013, however. And Aplin is regarded as a quality defender who can play anywhere in the outfield; Baseball America credits him with a high-quality arm while noting that “his range and defense play up thanks to good routes and reads.”
The 29-year-old Heston, who’s best known for his 2015 no-hitter, has struggled badly in his limited major league opportunities over the past two seasons. Most recently, he was bombed in a spot start on Sunday. Still, Heston had managed a 3.41 ERA with 8.0 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9 over 31 2/3 innings this year at Triple-A Tacoma.
- Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano is set to return from a DL stint on Tuesday, writes MLB.com’s Greg Johns. Cano went to the DL last week with a strained quad; his placement was retroactive to May 13, so Tuesday is the earliest he’s eligible to return. Cano took batting and fielding practice on Saturday, and reported that he felt fine. The Mariners will count on Cano, who was hitting .296/.362/.533, to aid an offense that struggled in this weekend’s series against the White Sox.
- The Mariners have signed outfielder Keury De La Cruz to a minor league deal. The 25-year-old played in the independent American Association last season after spending 2009-15 with the Red Sox organization. De La Cruz, whom Baseball America ranked as the Red Sox’s 25th-best prospect after the 2012 season, is a career .270/.318/.430 hitter with 58 home runs and 78 stolen bases (and 50 caught stealings) in 2,648 minor league plate appearances.
- Meanwhile, the Mariners decided to hold off on starting the rehab assignment of outfielder Mitch Haniger after he felt some mild soreness in his oblique, Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune reports. At this point, the hope is that it won’t cause a significant delay. Haniger, 26, is no doubt chomping at the bit to get back to the big leagues after his outstanding start to the year. Over 95 plate appearances, he carries a .342/.447/.608 batting line with four home runs.
- As the Mariners continue searching for solutions in the pen, the team has at least temporarily taken Edwin Diaz out of the closer’s role. As Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times writes, though, Steve Cishek did not succeed last night after being pressed into duty just after being activated. Fellow righties Nick Vincent and Tony Zych could also be options going forward, though the latter is also still being handled with care after a long injury layoff. For the time being, it seems, the ninth inning is in flux for Seattle.
- Meanwhile, Mariners righty Ryan Weber, who is among the organization’s many players on the 10-day DL, has been diagnosed with a “stretch of the musculocutaneous nerve,” per a club announcement. Details are sparse, but that nerve services the arm and plays a key role in elbow function. At present, it’s not known how long Weber could miss, but his absence removes yet another depth option from an injury-ravaged Seattle staff.
The Mariners announced on Tuesday that second baseman Robinson Cano has been placed on the 10-day disabled list, retroactive to May 13, with a strained right quadriceps. Though Cano hasn’t played since May 10, the newly implemented 10-day disabled list only allows teams to backdate DL stints by a maximum of three days.
Cano becomes the latest key Mariners contributor to land on the DL, as he joins the vast majority of the starting rotation — Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, James Paxton, Drew Smyly — and breakout rookie Mitch Haniger on the shelf. Relievers Evan Marshall, Evan Scribner and Shae Simmons are all on the disabled list, too, as is utilityman Shawn O’Malley.
Seattle’s press release doesn’t include any quotes from GM Jerry Dipoto on Cano’s status, nor does it include any type of timetable for his return. However, to this point there’s been nothing to suggest that Cano is in for a lengthy stay on the DL. That said, even a minimal absence for Cano is a tough pill for the Mariners to swallow. Though 2017 represents Cano’s age-34 campaign, he turned in one of the finest seasons of his career in 2016 and has actually been performing at a higher level thus far in 2017. Through 34 games (152 plate appearances), the seven-time All-Star is batting .296/.362/.533 with eight homers and eight doubles.
Outfielder Boog Powell has been recalled from Triple-A Tacoma to take Cano’s spot on the active roster. While he obviously won’t be a candidate to fill in for Cano at second base, the Mariners didn’t necessarily need to recall an infielder, as reserve players Taylor Motter and Mike Freeman are both capable of playing second base.
SUNDAY: Seattle has outrighted Machi to Triple-A, the team announced.
SATURDAY: The Mariners have announced that they’ve designated righty Jean Machi for assignment and selected the contract of fellow righty Ryan Weber from Triple-A Tacoma. Weber will start against the Blue Jays today.
The Mariners selected Machi’s contract just last week with the idea that he’d provide help for their bullpen. He did just that, allowing only two runs (one earned) over 7 1/3 innings, although he walked four batters and struck out just four. He also pitched 2 1/3 of those innings yesterday and therefore would probably not have been much help today, as Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune points out. The Mariners also plan to have fellow reliever Steve Cishek return from the disabled list in the coming days. It was the 35-year-old Machi’s first stint in the big leagues since 2015, when he pitched 58 innings for the Giants and Red Sox.
Weber will attempt to help a Mariners rotation that has lately been decimated by injuries to Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, James Paxton and Drew Smyly, becoming the ninth starter to take the hill for Seattle this season. The only two healthy starters remaining from the team’s Opening Day 25-man (which itself didn’t include Smyly, who has missed the entire season thus far with elbow trouble) are Yovani Gallardo and Ariel Miranda.
The 26-year-old Weber made seven starts over parts of the 2015 and 2016 campaigns with the Braves. He had an 0.85 ERA and just 1.1 BB/9 in 31 2/3 innings with Tacoma, although with a modest 5.4 K/9.
- The Mariners’ top four starting pitchers, James Paxton, Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma and Drew Smyly, are all on the disabled list, leading general manager Jerry Dipoto to tell Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune: “You always try to be prepared for the worst-case scenario, but this has set a new bar.” In the latest blow to Seattle’s starting depth, fill-in Ryan Weber left his season debut in the fourth inning of the club’s loss to Toronto on Saturday and is now on the DL with right shoulder tightness. While Dipoto has a reputation as a transaction-happy GM, having averaged one move every 15 hours, 45 minutes since the Mariners set their Opening Day roster (per Dutton, on Twitter), he doesn’t expect to bolster his rotation from outside the organization. “It’s a tough time of year to find external help,” he said. “Our most realistic and best options remain those in house.”