OAKLAND, Calif. — After leading off Thursday afternoon’s game with a double into the left field corner and later scoring on Mitch Haniger’s single to right field, Julio Rodriguez exited the Mariners game in the bottom of the first inning, with more lower back discomfort that kept him out of games in the previous series in Anaheim.
“Concerning,” manager Scott Servais said. “It’s the same area in the lower back.”
Rodriguez is expected to travel to Kansas City with the team and then get a full work-up on his back, including X-rays and an MRI.
Servais was adamant that Rodriguez didn’t hurt the back when hitting the double, but he did run awkwardly out of the batter’s box on the ball into the left field corner. He also didn’t look to be running with his normal intensity when he scored from second on Haniger’s single to right field.
“He felt great before the game,” Servais said. “He was out running around. We see him lead off the game with a double and he scored shortly after. But as he was running out to take his position in the second inning, he just felt it kind of grab on him. He said something to Haniger on the field. Hani was watching him and was like, ‘this guy’s not right.’ We went out and talked to Julio. We didn’t want to do anything stupid out there to make it worse.”
Rodriguez missed the final three games of the four-game series in Anaheim after feeling the back tighten up while hitting in the cage before Saturday’s game. He was scratched from the lineup about 30 minutes prior to the game.
He returned to the lineup for the first two games of the Oakland series, picking up a pair of hits in the second game.
After struggling to muster more than a run per game for much of the current road trip, Seattle scored three runs in the first inning off A’s starter Adrian Martinez, including Haniger’s RBI single, an RBI double from Cal Raleigh and Jesse Winker’s bases loaded walk.
Following the last out, Rodriguez jogged to his customary spot in center field. After George Kirby gave up a double to leadoff hitter Tony Kemp and issued a rare walk to Vimael Machin, Rodriguez signaled to the dugout, and athletic Taylor Bennett and Servais jogged out to the outfield to check on him.
After a brief conversation, Rodriguez walked off the field with them and straight to the training room.
The Mariners will likely have another outfielder, possibly Taylor Trammell, fly to Kansas City to at least be on the taxi squad as they await the results of Rodriguez’s tests.
In the immediate interim, Jarred Kelenic, who had a solo homer and a RBI double in Thursday’s win, can play center along with Dylan Moore.
Kirby’s rare off outing
Kirby has made pitching at the MLB level as a rookie look quite easy at times. With a smooth delivery and impeccable command, the young right-hander has been one of the Mariners’ most consistent pitchers since debuting in mid-May.
But on Thursday, nothing was easy for Kirby as he endured the worst outing of his career, lasting just 2 1/3 innings and giving up five runs on seven hits with three walks and a strikeout. He had never walked more than one batter in a game this season.
“I just didn’t feel in sync,” he said. “I was missing heaters up and down and my changeups going out. I didn’t have a feel for much today. I tried to grind it out as best I could.”
Servais wasn’t too concerned with the outing.
“He just wasn’t sharp and stuff was just fuzzy,” Servais said. “When he starts walking guys and he certainly got hit around today. I don’t think we’ve seen that at any point since he’s been with us this year in the big leagues. But it happens.”
Kirby has made 23 starts this season, posting a 7-4 record with a 3.30 ERA. He’s pitched in 120 innings, striking out 124 batters and walking just 18.
“I was doing really well,” Kirby said. “This is a tough feeling. But you know, my teammates picked me up today and they did a really good job.”