That pledge doesn’t extend to starting pitchers, however, the manager said, because ‘injuries are such that there’s not a lot we can do. We’ll do the best we can.’
ANAHEIM, Calif. — When the Mariners host the Astros for a three-game series starting on Monday at Safeco Field, manager Lloyd McClendon plans to follow the unwritten baseball code of playing his front-line players when facing teams vying for the postseason.
As a matter of fairness and respect to the Twins, Rangers and Angels, who are all in a wild postseason race with the Astros in the final week of the season, McClendon will be playing his normal starters, such as Nelson Cruz and Robinson Cano, despite their nagging injuries.
“I will put my best guys out in the field,” he said.
Unfortunately, he won’t be putting his best guys on the mound for the three-game series with the Astros.
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Because of lingering issues with James Paxton’s middle finger — this time a re-torn fingernail — and Taijuan Walker’s inning limit, McClendon has been forced to shuffle his rotation for the series against the Astros, who are 2½ games behind the Rangers in the American League West standings, while leading the wild card by a half game over the Angels.
“We are where we are and the injuries are such that there’s not a lot we can do,” McClendon said. “We’ll do the best we can.”
The Mariners plan to start left-hander Roenis Elias on Monday against the Astros, who will start right-hander Lance McCullers. Elias has made four starts against the Astros this season and is 1-2 with a 6.65 ERA. He’s allowed 22 hits in 211/3 innings, with five homers, 11 walks and 24 strikeouts.
His most recent start came on Sept. 1 in Houston, where he pitched 51/3 innings, allowing four runs on five hits with four walks and four strikeouts.
Vidal Nuno will start on Tuesday in place of Paxton, who was scheduled to make that start. Nuno will be working on three days’ rest, having started on Friday night in Anaheim.
McClendon purposely limited Nuno to 67 pitches in that outing with Tuesday in mind.
Nuno is fine with the short rest, but he likely will be limited to around 50 pitches.
On Saturday, McClendon held out hope that Paxton may return sooner than expected from the fingernail problem and pitch this week.
“I’m hoping that Paxton, on an extra day of rest, can go,” McClendon said. “We’ll see. If not, we’ll use the bullpen.”
On Sunday, Paxton admitted that he hasn’t played catch with a baseball yet and there is still some swelling around the fingernail. For him to be ready by Wednesday, he would have to be cleared to throw by Monday and participate in at least a bullpen session or a long flat-ground throwing session.
It seems unlikely at this point.
That means Seattle likely will go with an “all-staff” start with various relievers working one and two innings.
There is a chance that Paxton might not pitch the rest of the season. If he doesn’t start Wednesday, there is perhaps a chance that he could pitch the final game of the season on Sunday against the A’s. Right now, McClendon is slotting Elias into that spot.
With all of Paxton’s issues from this season, including the strained tendon in the finger and two incidents with the nail, the Mariners may just wait and have him start pitching in the Arizona Fall League.
The bigger issue may be his total innings count. He’s thrown 67 innings in the big leagues this season and 62/3 innings on rehab stints. The Mariners wanted to get Paxton at least 120 innings with the Arizona Fall League and a full month of September starts.
But with the injury issues, the 30 innings he’d get in the fall league wouldn’t be enough. The Mariners may have to look at sending him to winter ball in the Dominican Republic or Venezuela.
• The Mariners lost the season series to the Angels 12-7. Of those 19 games, 12 were decided by two runs or fewer and seven by one run. The Mariners had four walkoff losses at Angels Stadium.
• With his pinch-hit homer Sunday, Mark Trumbo is hitting .302 with 11 doubles, 12 homers and 35 RBI in his last 68 games.