George Kirby, as they say, was dealing Tuesday night. He was as sharp as he’s been at any point in his debut season for the Mariners, and given a choice, the rookie right-hander of course would have preferred to pitch another inning or two against the Texas Rangers.
“I’d like to go as much as possible,” Kirby said. “But long-term health is important too. It’s hard. I’m so competitive and want to keep going as long as I can, but it’s the best choice.”
The Mariners sent Kirby back down to Class AAA Tacoma earlier this month to manage his workload, and manager Scott Servais said before Tuesday’s game that Kirby would be on a strict pitch count as the team works the 24-year-old back to full strength with the big-league club.
Kirby needed just 51 pitches to get through five shutout innings in the Mariners’ 5-4 victory Tuesday, allowing just two soft-hit singles with one walk and four strikeouts. His new two-seam fastball — which he learned from veteran ace Robbie Ray just a few weeks ago — was particularly effective against the Rangers.
“It’s probably one of the toughest calls — I did not want to take him out of the game. Every bone in my body says, ‘Let him go,’” Servais said. “But we’ve got a lot of baseball ahead of us. Some of our young players have never been in this situation before. They’ve never played this much, and certainly not at this level.
“So we’ve got to be smart. I’m looking at the big picture here, because we’ve got a lot of big games ahead of us. We’re going to need him healthy, and the way he was throwing tonight he’s going to carve up a lot of lineups.”
In 19 starts this season — 13 for the Mariners and six in the minors — Kirby has already thrown a career-high 96 innings. Servais said he doesn’t have a specific innings limit in mind for Kirby going forward — or, at least, not one he’s prepared to reveal publicly.
“It’s not so much an actual number. We just need to watch it,” Servais said. “He was off (for 18 days), and we can’t just fire him out there for 90 or 100 pitches. That’s just stupid. … We need to stay disciplined, and everything will work out fine.”
Ty France sits with sore wrist
Ty France was out of the lineup with a sore wrist for Wednesday afternoon’s series finale against the Rangers.
France felt discomfort in his wrist after a swing-and-miss on a changeup Tuesday, and Servais wanted to be cautious with his All-Star first baseman ahead of the club’s seven-day road trip to Houston and New York.
The wrist discomfort is not related to an elbow sprain that landed France on the injured list last month, Servais said.
“He has this creep up on him every now and then,” Servais said. “It’s always in that swing-and-miss when he’s out in front with extension that bothers him a little bit. I talked to him this morning. He feels OK.”