The starting pitching that has carried the Mariners into the unexpected position of playing for a postseason spot in these final three weeks of the 2020 season was thrown into uncertainty when Brandon Crawford’s line drive struck Ljay Newsome on his pitching wrist in Tuesday night’s loss to the Giants. It forced him out of the game but not to the injured list.
While X-rays showed no fractures, that doesn’t mean he’s guaranteed to make his next start, which is scheduled for Tuesday at T-Mobile Park against the Giants, again. Though the Mariners are tentatively expecting for him to be on the mound, it’s dependent on how Newsome’s wrist feels when he tries to throw a baseball again, which won’t happen for a few days.
“Ljay is in there (training room) making sure he gets the swelling out of there,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said in pregame video call. “We have a day off tomorrow. But he will not play catch or anything until we come back after the day off. Right now, he is scheduled to pitch his normal turn. We’re pretty optimistic he’ll be able to make that start, but it’ll depend on how he feels playing catch when he goes out there on Friday.”
If the wrist doesn’t feel right, the Mariners will have to be extra creative because they have two extra games next week. Their scheduled day off for Monday has been replaced with a doubleheader of two seven-inning games vs. the Oakland A’s to make up part of the series that was postponed last week.
Without the doubleheader, the Mariners could maneuver their six-man rotation to give Newsome an extra day of rest or skip him.
Instead, they are still figuring out who will get the ball in the game that Marco Gonzales doesn’t start before getting to Newsome’s outing.
“We may turn that into a bullpen day in that second game,” Servais said. “Marco is scheduled to go in one of those games. I’m not sure on the second game yet. There was some back-and-forth (discussion) about bringing back Ljay, but now that he has this issue that’s probably not going to be the case. So right now, we do not have a definite starter for that other game.”
A bullpen day when every game is magnified is less than ideal. The Mariners do have long relievers that are capable of working multiple innings, including right-hander Seth Frankoff and right-hander Jimmy Yacabonis, who had his minor league contract selected from the alternate training site in Tacoma and added to the active and 40-man roster. To make room, right-hander Brady Lail, who gave up four runs in relief of Newsome, was optioned back to Tacoma.
Yacabonis was acquired from the Padres for cash considerations Aug. 19. Last season, Yacabonis pitched in 29 games for the Orioles, posting a 6.80 ERA with 31 earned runs and 33 strikeouts in 41 innings. Over parts of three seasons, he appeared in 55 MLB games (11 starts) posting a 3-4 record with a 5.75 ERA.
And if for some reason, Newsome’s wrist doesn’t react well Friday?
Well, the Mariners might have to look toward Tacoma for more pitching help. It seems unlikely they would do it, but the best available pitcher who is stretched out and ready is their top pitching prospect — Logan Gilbert. The former first-round pick, who is ranked No. 5 by Baseball America in the Mariners’ system, is the most advanced of all the prospects in Tacoma and has been pitching on consistent rest. He last pitched in an intrasquad game Saturday.
Gilbert hasn’t necessarily looked sharp at times in Tacoma. The Mariners have been adamant about not bringing top prospects to the big leagues this season due to the lack of minor league games. There are also service-time ramifications that must be considered.
The Mariners have an off-day Sept. 17 after the two-game series with the Giants in Seattle, which could help correct things.