One player is ready to return from injury to play in the Mariners’ remaining games, another, who could desperately use that game experience, is done for the season.
The Mariners are expected to welcome back starting shortstop J.P. Crawford to the lineup Thursday night in the series finale against the Reds. A hamstring injury had kept him out for the last nine games.
But for center fielder Jake Fraley, a seemingly harmless collision with Mallex Smith in Houston has ended his 2019 season. An MRI on Monday revealed sprained ligaments in Fraley’s swollen right thumb. The early prognosis is a return to baseball activity in about four weeks.
Much like the sprained ankle Crawford suffered on May 29, he has returned from his Grade 1 hamstring strain sooner than expected.
“I saw him work out today, and he looked good,” manager Scott Servais said. “We’ll get him back in there. He’s anxious. He wants to get back out there and finish the season on a high note.”
Acquired this offseason from the Phillies to be the Mariners’ everyday shortstop, Crawford started the season with Class AAA Tacoma. Seattle wanted him to clean up some footwork issues on defense, and it also allowed a small service-time manipulation. Crawford was called up May 10 and took over startin- shortstop duties from Tim Beckham. In his first 19 games, Crawford posted a .290/.355/.449 slash line (batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage) with eight doubles, a homer and nine RBI. But he cooled off considerably as the league adjusted to him.
Overall, he’s played in 79 games for the Mariners, posting a .241/.322/.397 slash line with 20 doubles, four triples, six homers and 40 RBI.
“I feel like I belong,” he said. “But I’ve still got a lot to prove, and I have to go out there every day and prove I deserve to be out there every day. I think this year went pretty well.”
The Mariners just wanted to get him through the bulk of the season and allow him to take a step forward into a role that features plenty of responsibility. But there’s still more to do.
“Big offseason ahead for him,” Servais said. “There are some that are bigger than others for guys, and he’s right near the top of that list on what he can do to better himself, better his body and get fully prepared to play an entire major-league season. I think he’s a 150-game guy if he’s right.”
Fraley’s time in the big leagues was brief and interrupted. A quad injury suffered with Class AAA Tacoma delayed his call-up by about two weeks. When he finally was brought up, he played in a handful of games before dealing with personal tragedy.
Fraley was a minor-league teammate and friend of Rays minor leaguer Blake Bivens, and Fraley’s wife, Angelica, became very close friends with Biven’s wife, Emily. On Aug. 27, Emily Bivens; her 14-month-old son, Cullen; and Emily’s mother, Joan Bernard, were murdered, allegedly by 18-year-old Matthew Bernard, Joan’s son and Emily’s younger brother.
The tragedy left the baseball world stunned and Angelica Fraley reeling. Jake Fraley left the Mariners for three days in the aftermath.
Acquired along with Smith from the Rays in the trade that sent catcher Mike Zunino, outfielder Guillermo Heredia and a minor-league pitcher to Tampa, Fraley impressed the Mariners during spring training with his aggressive style of play and unexpected power due to some swing changes. He dominated at Class AA Arkansas, slashing .313/.386/.539 with 15 doubles, two triples, 11 homers and 47 RBI in 61 games before being promoted to Tacoma. In 38 games with Tacoma, Fraley posted a .276/.333/.553 slash line with 12 doubles, three triples, eight homers and 47 RBI.
In 12 games with the Mariners, Fraley had six hits in 40 at-bats (. 150) with a pair of doubles and an RBI.
“It’s unfortunate,” Servais said of Fraley’s injury. “This time is really important for these guys. Again, not so much geared to how they perform or their results, but just getting experience. I feel bad for him. It’s been a really good year for Jake on the field. He’s dealt with some things off the field. He’s played a lot. He was hurt parts of his first couple years of pro ball. It’s a good year overall. It just didn’t finish off the way he would like it.”
• Right-hander Justin Dunn will make his big-league debut Thursday evening, getting the start in the series finale vs. the Reds.
Dunn will serve as the extended opener, meaning he could pitch up to three innings. Left-hander Tommy Milone will serve as the bulk pitcher. Rated as the No. 5 prospect by MLB Pipeline, Dunn was 9-5 with a 3.55 ERA in 25 starts with Class AA Arkansas. He struck out 158 batters and walked 39 in 131 2/3 innings.
“It could be two or three innings,” Servais said. “We’ll see how it goes. He’s excited. I am too. One thing about bringing young players up, it gives you a little shot in the arm. I am looking forward to seeing how they react in certain situations and watch them grow.”
• Domingo Santana (elbow strain) took batting pregame practice on the field the past two days. Servais said he could give Santana some at-bats this weekend or on the upcoming road trip. Santana was placed on the injured list Aug. 19 after trying to play through the discomfort as the designated hitter and having it affect his swing at the plate. Before going on the injured list, he was 2 for 32 in his last 11 games with two RBI, seven walks and 20 strikeouts. He’s missed the last 19 games.