The Seattle Mariners’ six-man rotation is going on hiatus.
At least, until after next month’s All-Star break.
With Justin Dunn placed on the 10-day injured list for the second time in three weeks with right-shoulder discomfort, Mariners manager Scott Servais said Friday the team will go with five starters for the time being.
It helps that the Mariners, who will host the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday night, have four scheduled days off between now and the July 13 midsummer classic in Denver.
“We have a ton of off days coming and we’ve kind of mapped it out,” Servais said. “Like all teams right now, you’re kind of mapping out your rotation and whatnot leading into the All-Star break, and then you kind of restructure it coming out of the break. So, as of right now, with the off days we have, we will stay with the five guys that we do have.”
There will be one occasion when two starters are forced to start on four days’ rest instead of five.
Servais hinted that task likely would fall to veterans such as Marco Gonzales, Yusei Kikuchi or Chris Flexen, rather than Justus Sheffield or rookie right-hander Logan Gilbert, who is scheduled to start for the Mariners on Saturday.
“Just one start apiece for a couple guys,” Servais said. “And the two guys that would take that on I think are able to handle it. So right now, we won’t slide anybody else into the rotation. We will go with five until we get to the All-Star break is what we’re hoping for. We’ve got to keep all those guys healthy, but that’s the plan right now.”
The Mariners have won the first two games of the four-game series against the Rays, including 5-1 Friday as Kikuchi allowed just one run over seven innings. Seattle has won five of its past six games to reach the .500 mark.
Gilbert (2-2, 4.13 ERA), the Mariners’ top pitching prospect, has won his past two starts, including last Sunday in Cleveland when he allowed one run on four hits in 6 2/3 innings to get the victory against the American League’s reigning Cy Young Award winner, Shane Bieber.
Gilbert lost to the Indians in his major-league debut on May 13 at T-Mobile Park, when he allowed four runs on five hits, including two home runs, in four innings.
“I felt like it was a lot better,” Gilbert said of his second start against Cleveland. “I feel like I’ve cleaned some stuff up since then and have really been able to use other pitches and rely on other pitches versus just trying to show them stuff. I just feel more well-rounded as a pitcher in general, just being able to go to different pitches.”
The Rays, who have lost four consecutive games to see their lead over Boston atop the AL East dwindle to a half-game, are set to start left-hander Josh Fleming (6-4, 3.20 ERA).
Fleming pitched four scoreless innings to get the win after the Rays used an opener last Sunday in a 7-1 victory against Baltimore.
“If they need me to go four (innings) like I did last time or if they need me to go eight, I’m open and obviously available,” Fleming said. “My arm’s been feeling great. My body’s been feeling great. So whatever they need, I’m always up for.”
Both Gilbert and Fleming will make their first career appearances against their opponent on Saturday night.
–Field Level Media