Several times over the past week, Scott Servais was asked about the looming roster crunch he would be facing ahead of the Mariners’ upcoming 11-day road swing.
That, Servais kept insisting, was a good thing. It meant there were several capable players competing for valuable positions at the end of the bench.
With Julio Rodriguez and Dylan Moore on their way back from the 10-day injured list, who would be the odd man out?
One domino fell Wednesday morning when Servais announced that Kyle Lewis, the 2020 American League Rookie of the Year, had been optioned to Class AAA Tacoma to make room for Moore.
Servais hopes the demotion is a good thing for Lewis, who has been mired in a 4 for 41 slump with 18 strikeouts in 46 plate appearances since his return from the injured list on July 22.
Getting consistent at-bats in Tacoma, Servais hopes, could help Lewis find his rhythm again at the plate.
“Obviously, Kyle’s tool is the bat,” Servais said, “and it has been a struggle since he came back up here. The strikeout has crept in.”
If Lewis finds his swing again in Tacoma, Servais is open to the idea of Lewis returning to the big-league club.
“I do think there’s a role for him on our club,” Servais said. “But you need to be productive when you get a chance to play, whether it’s the DH or coming off the bench.”
Moore (back spasms) was reinstated from the injured list ahead of the series finale against the Yankees. He was in the starting lineup Wednesday afternoon, batting seventh and playing shortstop as J.P. Crawford had a day off against Yankees left-hander Nestor Cortes.
The Mariners are hoping Rodriguez (wrist/hand contusion) can return from the 10-day injured list for the first game of the road trip Friday in Texas.
Flexen moved to bullpen
Chris Flexen has been as dependable as any starter the Mariners have had in their starting rotation the past two seasons.
They’re hoping he can be just as dependable in a new role.
Flexen has been moved to the Mariners bullpen, in part because he does have experience as a reliever from early in his major league career with the New York Mets.
The trade for ace right-hander Luis Castillo ahead of the deadline gave the Mariners six starters, and they simply cannot take rookie right-hander George Kirby out of the rotation with the way he’s pitched of late.
“We sat with Flex here a couple days ago and explained to him where we’re at,” Servais said. “When you’re looking at a team, you’re trying to look at, what’s the best way to use all the assets that you have?
“And we felt with where George Kirby’s at right now — George is going to remain in our rotation. We understand he may have some limitations innings-wise and workload-wise as we get down to stretch. So I think there’s a good chance that Flex comes back into our rotation and starts for us at some point this year.
“But for where we’re at this moment in time, we thought (this is) best. Flex has pitched out of the bullpen in the past. I think his stuff works pretty good out of the bullpen. I think we’ll see maybe a tick up even in his stuff out of the pen, and he’ll be used in different roles.”
The bullpen got another boost Wednesday morning with the return of veteran right-hander Diego Castillo (right shoulder inflammation), who was activated from the 15-day IL.
Castillo has appeared in 39 games with the Mariners this season going 7-1 with six saves, a 3.93 ERA and 36 strikeouts. In 26 games since May 15, he has a 1.73 ERA with 26 strikeouts and has held opponents to a .151 batting average.
LHP Brennan Bernardino was optioned to Tacoma to make room.