Since the song came out 22 years before he was born, Julio Rodriguez probably didn’t hear the voices of Maurice White and Philip Bailey or the engaging rhythm-and-blues beat when he said, “I would say, it’s September. That’s my best answer to it.”
Unfortunately for the Mariners and their fans, he wasn’t answering a question about his favorite Earth, Wind & Fire song, which he’s probably heard played multiple times before and during games over the past 18 days.
No, Rodriguez was referencing the cause of his lower back discomfort that has kept him out of the starting lineup two straight games during the series against the Angels.
After being scratched from the starting lineup about 30 minutes before Saturday night’s game at Angel Stadium, Rodriguez was out of the lineup again Sunday.
“I’m definitely going to be OK, but I feel a few days of rest will be the best thing for it,” he said. “Especially right now, it’s better to be cautious and be good for the rest of the year and not try to rush too much. Being out for even longer definitely would not be a good situation.”
Any time Rodriguez is out of the lineup, his absence atop the batting order is glaring and there is a missing level of energy that he brings to the field.
With Eugenio Suarez on the injured list with a fractured index finger, it meant that the Mariners’ two leading home run hitters were absent from Sunday’s lineup against the Angels.
“He is going to pick up some activity today in the cage and start moving around a little bit,” manager Scott Servais said. “We’ll see where he goes. I know he mentioned something to you guys earlier, but in talking to our training staff, I don’t think there’s anything super alarming. He does have some back tightness and we’ve got to get it to calm down. With a day game tomorrow, we’ll just have to wait and see. It really is truly day to day with how he feels going forward.”
Rodriguez admitted the grind and length of the MLB season has been an adjustment compared to his past minor-league seasons. He’s stopped taking on-field batting practice for most games in an effort to keep his body healthy.
“I have never played for such a long time,” he said. “I’m trying to manage it. I feel like I will be back after a few days of rest. I’m not familiar with playing for such a long time. It’s been me teaching me a few things and I’m learning about my body and how to keep it healthy.”
Servais was happy that Rodriguez was cognizant enough to inform the training staff about the discomfort and not make the situation worse.
“Yesterday, everything kind of sprung up on us really late,” Servais said. “It’s about as late as I’ve ever scratched the player. That was just brought to me from our training staff that he didn’t feel right and we needed to make an adjustment there very close to game time. All these guys are very in tune to their bodies and how they feel. Nobody, nobody in this league right now feels 100%. There’s not one guy. It’s just trying to figure out where you’re at and what you can play through and be really smart about it as well.”
Rodriguez has played in 126 of the Mariners’ 145 games. Seattle is 8-11 with him out of the lineup.