It won’t be the traditional mass of bodies arriving to clog the clubhouse, lengthening pregame workouts with extra rounds of batting practice and slowing games with constant substitutions, but come Wednesday, Major League Baseball active rosters will expand from 26 to 28 players.
In past years, up until the shortened 2020 season, a team could put its entire 40-man roster on the active roster for the month of September, though most didn’t.
The September call-up was often a reward for on-the-cusp prospects to get some MLB playing time in preparation for the next season when they were expected to be on the opening day roster. For teams in postseason contention, it offered a myriad pinch runners, defensive replacements and relievers.
While some teams would bring up four or five players for September, other teams would bring 10 or 12. There was no set limit for call-ups on the 40-man roster. It led to a different style of baseball being played in the final month of the season with division titles and postseason spots up for grabs.
“I have been outspoken in the past,” manager Scott Servais said. “I thought it was very unfair that teams played with different numbers of players in September. Everybody should have the same number to play with. And some teams that were fighting for a playoff spot, you’d look up and there’s 36 guys on the roster and other teams there might have been 28 or 29. So I do think there needs to be a standard number.”
But Servais doesn’t like the current standard number set by MLB.
“Just adding two guys seems really light,” he said. “Based on injuries, the fact that we didn’t play a full season last year and what the extra numbers added to your roster, it really helped in your bullpen and really helped on the pitching side. Obviously, it’s not going to be there, so it really doesn’t do a whole lot of good to complain about it. But everybody’s playing by the same rules, with the same number, and I think that is a good thing.”
Servais isn’t asking for all 40 to be the limit. But maybe five or six players so a limit of 32 seems more beneficial for everyone involved.
“Personally, I wish we had a couple more ,” he said. “And especially with the Mariners and where we’re at this point, if we had more room to add younger players, I think it’s a real benefit for those guys to get the exposure at the big-league level.”
He will offer his input into the situation, but ultimately general manager Jerry Dipoto will make the decision on which two players will be added before Wednesday afternoon’s homestand finale vs. the Astros.
The Mariners will add at least one pitcher with lefty Justus Sheffield expected to be activated from the 10-day injured list. He has been out since the All-Star break with left forearm and oblique strain. Sheffield won’t be reinserted into the starting rotation, he’ll pitch out of the bullpen as a reliever. He could serve as a fill-in starter if needed.
Though right-hander Diego Castillo (shoulder inflammation) and lefty Anthony Misiewicz (forearm strain) are nearing returns from the injured list, Seattle could add another reliever from Tacoma. Castillo will pitch one inning in a rehab assignment Thursday with Tacoma while Misiewicz threw a bullpen session Tuesday afternoon.
Seattle could also add a position player like infielder Donovan Walton or outfielder Taylor Trammell for added depth on the bench.
They can also continue to make moves with the expanded roster through the month of September with the Triple-A season being extended until Oct. 3.
Kyle Lewis ran the bases before Tuesday’s game to test his surgically repaired right knee. The Mariners hope he feels well enough after the running workout to start a rehab assignment Thursday. He felt some soreness Monday after a strenuous running workout Sunday.
Servais said he’s not in favor of shutting down Lewis for the season and having him prepare for next season.
“I think it’s important that he gets out and plays at some point this year,” Servais said. “But only if he feels 100% and he’s good to go. We are not going to push it or rush it. We certainly have been very cautious to this point. But I do think it’s valuable for him. If nothing else, some peace of mind going into next spring. I think it’d be important for him to get out and play. So we’ll keep focused on that. And hopefully get him back as soon as possible.”