Gonzales has been on the disabled lists since Aug. 24.
Marco Gonzales summed up his time away from the starting rotation quickly: “It’s sucks. It’s terrible.”
Well, he won’t have to deal with that much longer. Following an intense 35-pitch bullpen session Friday afternoon, the Mariners have slotted Gonzales back into the starting rotation for the game Tuesday against the Padres at Safeco Field.
Gonzales has been on the disabled list since Aug. 24 with a strained neck muscle. And the time away from the mound has been frustrating.
“One of my greatest strengths is competitiveness,” he said. “It plays up my stuff. It plays up my starts. I bring a lot of energy to each game. Having to sit in the dugout, obviously I love to cheer on my teammates, but not taking the ball every fifth day has sucked. I think I’m going to bring that much more life and intensity with the starts ahead.”
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Seattle manager Scott Servais is hoping the break will allow Gonzales to come back strong, refreshed and similar to his midseason form.
“I want to see the same guy we saw in June and July,” Servais said. “He was cruising. He does feel fine physically and is throwing all his pitches in the bullpen. He probably won’t go as long. First time out, you’re probably looking at 75 pitches or something like that. Again, we just want to see him healthy, executing pitches and feeling good about things.”
In 12 starts from May 23 to July 29, Gonzales posted a 9-2 record with a 2.61 ERA.
The neck issues started about a week into August. He was able to pitch through the pain initially, but it affected him to the point he started getting diminishing returns.
“I was dealing with some (expletive), with some fatigue, some neck aches, some things I was battling through and trying to push through, hoping it would get better,” he said. “So putting that aside, I think there’s not going to be anything stopping me from returning to what I was doing before.”
The plan is for the Mariners to stay with a six-man rotation for the remainder of the season instead of Gonzales replacing a starter.
“We’ll bump guys around a little bit,” Servais said. “And we are probably going to ride with six with where we are at in the season. It’s probably the best thing to do right now. We’ve got other guys in the bullpen to cover up innings if someone has a rough outing.”
The reasons for the six-man rotation are typical. Gonzales has thrown 145 2/3 innings this season, which is a career high. James Paxton has thrown 144 1/3 innings, also a career high, while Wade LeBlanc is at 141 1/3 innings — a level he hasn’t surpassed since 2010.
“Right now, we have six guys healthy enough to do it,” Servais said. “I don’t think it’s that big of an issue. It’s something we talked about that we may need to go to during the season. Our starting pitching was rolling along so good for probably a 40- to 50-game stretch there that it didn’t make much sense. And we didn’t have six guys healthy. We’ve got them healthy now and we’ll try to keep them healthy for the remainder of the season.”