OAKLAND, Calif. — Though Ken Giles likely won’t pitch in a save situation during the three-game series, the cavernous crypt that has returned to being called the Oakland Coliseum after brief stints of less-than-noteworthy corporate sponsorships, will still be a special place for him.
“I have a lot of history on this field,” he said on a sweltering Tuesday afternoon. “I got my first big league save here, and I’m happy to be back here.”
That first save was Sept. 20, 2014, when he was with the Phillies. His next save will be the 116th in his career.
Giles is happy to be anywhere in the big leagues after missing most of the COVID-shortened 2020 season due to elbow discomfort, sitting out all of last season while recovering from Tommy John surgery and the first 68 games this season due to a tendon strain in his middle finger.
“I’m just grateful to get an opportunity after being gone for so long,” he said. “I’m hoping I can get things rolling and just any way I can help this team get back on track.”
Giles last appeared in a MLB game Sept. 15, 2020, with the Blue Jays. It was his fourth and last appearance of the season, getting shut down due to the elbow issue, which would be diagnosed as a torn ulnar collateral ligament. He underwent Tommy John surgery Oct. 1.
Seattle signed him to a two-year , $7 million contract before the 2021 season, knowing that Giles wouldn’t pitch in the first year of the contract. The Mariners were investing in the 2022 season, and the deal had a club option for 2023.
The Mariners expected to have Giles for opening day. But following his best Cactus League outing March 25, where he displayed a mid-90s fastball and a biting slider, Giles felt a weird pain in his middle finger. It was diagnosed as a tendon strain. It led to a frustratingly slow recovery.
“It felt like there was no light at the end of the tunnel at some points,” he said. “Going into spring training, I was feeling really good and that one last outing was just phenomenal. And then just a few days later, something in life just pops up out of nowhere. So everything happens for a reason.”
Giles realized how much that finger affected his pitching.
“For pitchers, fingers are everything,” he said. “You can’t throw any fastballs. You can’t spin the ball. You can’t do anything. I think the hardest part was just letting it heal on its own. There’s really no rehab for a finger injury. So you just have to let it run its normal course and just have to wait and wait until it’s feeling better.”
Giles made eight rehab appearances between High-A Everett and Triple-A Tacoma, posting a 14.21 ERA with 10 earned runs allowed in 6 1/3 innings pitched along with six walks and eight strikeouts. He wasn’t concerned about the numbers.
“It’s just pitching again,” he said. “It’s almost been two years since the last time I pitched. I’m just getting my feet wet. I treated it like a spring training, getting my body physically ready, my mentality ready and just being around a game of baseball. I believe just being in big league environment will help me lock in a little bit better than I would have during spring training or a rehab game.”
Manager Scott Servais won’t start throwing Giles back into high-leverage situations.
“I think it’s important that we get him a couple softer landings, so to speak, in his first couple of times out,” Servais said. “It’s been a while since he’s been out there. So let’s get his feet under him. I know he’s got a ton of experience in this league, but it always helps once you get your confidence going and start making some pitches and working through some innings.”
— Following the roster moves made Monday, which included adding Giles, recalling infielder Kevin Padlo and designating Sergio Romo and Roenis Elias for assignment, the Mariners have 13 position players and 13 pitchers. It’s not desirable for them to have the even numbers. The Mariners would prefer to have 14 pitchers and 12 position players.
MLB forcing the roster setup for a team is a pet peeve for Servais. He’s spoken out against it often.
“It changes the game dramatically for all 30 guys that sit in the seat that I sit in, when you’re trying to make decisions and you don’t want to overuse bullpen guys,” he said. “Certainly you’re trying to keep guys healthy throughout the year and whatnot. But you’ll see some changes. I think you’ll see more guys maybe throw the multiple innings or the one-plus inning outing. On certain nights when you’re down in the game, you might have to let your starter go a little bit longer to maybe pick up that extra inning so you don’t have to go to your bullpen too early. There’ll be some changes there.”
And if you run out of pitching?
“I think you’ll see more position players pitch than you’ve ever seen pitch before in the game,” Servais said. “And I don’t think that’s a good thing. So I’m not in favor of the rule, but we play by the rules so we’ll make adjustments.”
— MLB released its first All-Star voting update this summer. The Mariners don’t have any player leading at their position. Ty France is second among American League first baseman with 596,030 votes. Toronto’s Vlad Guerrero Jr. leads all first baseman with 947,045 votes.