Mike Montgomery tossed his second consecutive shutout on Tuesday night, allowing just one hit, while walking four batters, hitting another and posting seven strikeouts. He’s now 3-2 in his six MLB starts with a 1.62 ERA. And while he was figured to be a temporary replacement in the starting rotation until Hisashi Iwakuma returns, it’s almost impossible to fathom the Mariners sending him back to Class AAA Tacoma with how he’s pitching.
Asked about it postgame, manager Lloyd McClendon said (above): “I don’t have that answer.”
But that’s just a formality. Montgomery is staying. That leaves the M’s with a handful of options when Iwakuma is ready to come back, which could be Sunday or Monday.
1. Option Roenis Elias back to Class AAA Tacoma. The little lefty was solid early but has a 10.29 ERA in his last three starts. Sending him back would keep him pitching on normal rest and have him ready if they need to call him up again, perhaps if Montgomery starts to struggle.
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1a. Move Elias to the bullpen. This seems illogical since the idea of having six starters in case of injury was the plan for the M’s this season. And we’ve seen how fragile the health of starting pitchers can be. Moving Elias into a relief role would limit his potential for success if he was needed to make a spot start and be a waste of a solid young starting pitcher. If he has minor league options, use them.
2. Have Iwakuma make another rehab start with Class AAA Tacoma to buy some time. The veteran right-hander pitched 5 2/3 innings, allowing one run on five hits with a walk and six strikeouts in his rehab start tonight at Cheney Stadium. But a blister on the inside edge of the nail on his middle finger forced him out of the game at 82 pitches. The blister, which Iwakuma deals with every year, could be enough of a reason to have him make one more rehab start to put off the roster move. Iwakuma still has time since rehab assignments for pitchers are 30 days.
3. Explore a modified six-man rotation going into the all-star game. This isn’t something they could do for an extended period. But with 12 games to go till the break and no off days, the Mariners could make that move and skip Taijuan Walker’s start next week before the break to control his overall workload. That could get tricky with trying to find room on the 25-man roster. Would they move out a reliever, or remove a position player to make room?
4. Move J.A. Happ to the bullpen. That seems a little foolish since he’s never pitched much as a reliever and he does have some potential trade value, if the Mariners’ become sellers at the trade deadline. If Happ is moved to a bullpen and doesn’t stay stretched out as as starter, that value diminishes significantly.
4a. DFA Happ – that’s not going to happen. You don’t just jettison an asset.