Right-hander Chase De Jong has been recalled from Class AAA Tacoma.
OAKLAND, Calif. — For his first handful outings of the season, right-hander Dan Altavilla might have been the Mariners most dominant reliever. His fastball was touching 99 mph and his slider was unhittable. But in the fickle and unpredictable nature of relief pitching, that stretch of dominance was short lived, and Altavilla is now headed back to the minor leagues to refind that command and execution.
On Friday, the Mariners optioned Altavilla to Class AAA Tacoma and recalled right-hander Chase De Jong, who was scheduled to start Friday night for the Rainiers in El Paso. De Jong will fill a long relief bullpen role, but realistically he’s just a place holder in the bullpen until right-hander Steve Cishek returns from his rehab stint with the Rainiers by the end of the road trip. Cishek is scheduled to pitch on Friday evening for the Rainiers and will possibly make two more appearances.
“We need Danny Altavilla to be Danny Altavilla,” manager Scott Servais said. “Coming out of spring training, we felt really good about where he was at. But the last couple of outings, he’s really struggled command-wise more than anything — a lack of feel with where the fastball was headed and issues with his slider.”
The lack of fastball command was magnified in recent outings and Altavilla’s power slider stopped missing bats. In his first five outings, he pitched a total of four scoreless innings, allowing five hits, but striking out eight of the 18 batters he faced. He had a strike percentage of 64 percent.
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Over his last four outings, he’s thrown a total of 3 1/3 innings, giving up seven runs (six earned) on six hits with five walks and two strikeouts. Meanwhile, his strike percentage dwindled to 52 percent.
“The ball is flat and it’s not really going down or up, it’s right on the barrel,” Servais said.
In Thursday’s 9-6 loss, he entered the game in the seventh inning with the Mariners trailing 6-5. He issued back-to-back one-out walks and served up a deep homer to Trevor Plouffe.
“Something is just not clicking right,” Altavilla said postgame. “I’m in a little valley right now and trying to work my way out of it. (The slider) isn’t coming out right. Everything is just a little off. It’s something I have to work through. It’s kind of a feel thing. Right now, I’m kind of in a rut and I have to work my way out of it.”
Altavilla will try to refind that feel in Tacoma.
“He’s a good young pitcher who is going to help us at some point this year,” Servais said. “We just thought the best thing to do for him was to send him back to Tacoma and get him right. It’s tough to make adjustments here. It’s not about development. It’s about results and getting guys out. And with the way our bullpen is set up, we need that spot to count on. Last night was a prime example. You are fighting back into a game and you hope your middle guys can hold it there and it just didn’t work out for us.”
Here’s Altavilla’s game logs from Baseball Reference
After his brief stint in the big leagues while Dillon Overton was on paternity leave, De Jong returned to Class AAA Tacoma, making two starts and going 2-0 while posting a 1.74 ERA, allowing just two runs in 10 1/3 innings pitched.
“I want to take a little more aggressive approach to hitters when the time calls for it,” De Jong said. “Starting down there was very comfortable for me … to be able to stay within myself and be able to log some innings down there and have some success again and now I’m thrilled to be back up here again.”
The Mariners made a pregame lineup change with Carlos Ruiz catching and Mike Zunino getting a night off. A team source that the decision wasn’t based on health and that Zunino was fine.
Seattle does have back-to-back day games on Saturday and Sunday so that may factor into it.
Starting pitcher vs. hitter numbers
Mariners numbers vs. lefty Sean Manaea
A’s numbers vs. right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma
On this day in Mariners history ….
1990 – Ken Griffey Jr. goes 3×5 with a home run and four RBI, but the Mariners lose 7-6 in 11 innings to the A’s.
1996 – Ken Griffey Jr. and Edgar Martinez hit back-to-back home runs twice in a 9-5 win vs. Toronto
2001 – John Olerud hits his 7th career grand slam in a game against the Angels.
2002 – Ichiro Suzuki triples twice, tying a Mariners record, and scored both times in Seattle’s 5-3 win vs. Texas.
2010 – With the Mariners 4-1 win over Texas, David Aardsma becomes first player in Mariners history to start the season recording 6 saves in 6 appearances. Kaz Sasaki had 5 saves in his first 5 appearances back in 2001
2012 – Philip Humber of the Chicago White Sox threw the 21st perfect game in Major League history beating the Mariners 4-0 at Safeco Field. Humber retired all 27 batters he faced on only 96 pitches and struck out 9 batters. He retired Brendan Ryan on a check-swing to end the game.
2015 – Robinson Canó extended his hitting-streak to 8 games and drove in a pair of runs, but a 5-run 8th by Houston saw the Mariners lose 6-3 to the Astros…Carson Smith tossed a scoreless 7th inning, retiring all 3 batters he faced to set a club record for most consecutive appearances to open career without allowing a run.