TORONTO — The Mariners made an expected roster move Monday afternoon before opening a three-game series vs. the Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre.
Right-handed pitcher Drew Steckenrider was placed on the restricted list and temporarily removed from the 40-man roster. Lefty Roenis Elías, who joined the team Saturday in New York, had his minor-league contract selected from Class AAA Tacoma and was added to the 40-man roster.
While no official reason was listed on the roster move, Steckenrider isn’t with the team because he apparently isn’t vaccinated against COVID-19. Based on restrictions set by the Canadian government, any person traveling into Canada who isn’t vaccinated is required to quarantine for 14 days. Obviously, that’s a non-starter for MLB teams.
When a player is on the restricted list, they are not paid for those days nor do they accrue service time. This season there are 182 paid days of service time. As a second-year arbitration-eligible player, Steckenrider and the Mariners agreed upon a $3.1 million salary for the 2022 season. The three lost days of pay are just over $51,000 in unpaid salary to Steckenrider.
After saying Sunday that they would likely be without a couple of players in Toronto due to travel restrictions, manager Scott Servais also confirmed that left-handed pitcher Robbie Ray is not with the team in Toronto.
Asked if Ray is with the team, Servais replied flatly, “No.”
He didn’t elaborate more on the situation, only replying that Ray would start Friday in Boston.
Unlike Steckenrider, Ray cannot be placed on the restricted list. Per MLB rules, starting pitchers who start within four days of a trip to Toronto cannot be placed on the restricted list. The policy was set to avoid teams trying to maneuver their rotations to pick up extra relievers or position players for a series in Toronto.
The initial reaction to Ray not being vaccinated and with the team would be to ask, “How did he pitch for Toronto last season and win a Cy Young?”
When the Blue Jays finally returned to play in Canada on July 30, 2021, after 670 days away from Canada, playing their home games in Florida and Buffalo last season, the Canadian government enacted a national interest exemption that didn’t require professional athletes and entertainers to be vaccinated or quarantine for 14 days upon re-entering Canada. This was due to much more stringent MLB protocols that required frequent testing and contact tracing. MLB has relaxed COVID protocols in 2022 with no mandatory testing.
Per an agreement with MLB and the MLBPA, a player’s vaccination status cannot be discussed or disclosed without player approval.
Steckenrider, 31, struggled in his appearance Sunday vs. the Mets, putting the Mariners’ victory and series win in jeopardy. He recorded just one out while allowing two runs before being lifted for Diego Castillo. In 14 appearances this season, he is 0-1 with a 4.85 ERA (7 ER, 13.0 IP) with two saves. In 2021, Steckenrider went 5-2 with a 2.00 ERA (15 ER, 67.2 IP) with 14 saves in 62 games out of the Mariners bullpen. The 2.00 ERA in 2021 ranks as the sixth lowest in Mariners history among pitchers with at least 60 innings.
Elías, 33, has a 4.30 ERA (7 ER, 14.2 IP) in 11 appearances (one start) with 11 strikeouts for the Rainiers this season. He has not appeared in an MLB game since the 2019 season after missing the 2020 and 2021 seasons due to injury (left flexor strain in 2020, Tommy John surgery in 2021).
The Mariners re-signed Elías to a two-year minor-league contract after he suffered the elbow injury, wanting to keep him in the organization. They valued his experience and versatility in both starting and relieving roles in his MLB career, going 22-24 with a 3.97 ERA (171 ER, 388.0 IP) in 126 career games (54 starts) with 14 saves.
When Elías appeared in Monday’s game, he became just the fifth player in Mariners history to have three different stints with the Mariners, joining Mike Blowers, Raul Ibañez, Norm Charlton and Jeff Nelson. Elías’ 143 strikeouts in 2014 are the fourth most in a season by a rookie in Mariners history, trailing only Mark Langston (204 in 1984), Michael Pineda (173 in 2011) and Freddy García (170 in 1999).
— Jarred Kelenic will join Class AAA Tacoma for Tuesday’s road trip to Sacramento after being optioned back to Tacoma on Friday morning in New York.
Per the collective-bargaining agreement, a player has three days to report to a minor-league affiliate after being optioned. Instead of a cross-country flight Friday, likely having Saturday off to work out, the less-than-stellar weather predicted for Sunday and the universal off day Monday for minor-league baseball, the Mariners told Kelenic to take the three days allotted and reset.
The young outfielder had been ready to report to Tacoma right away, but the Mariners wanted him to give him a quick reset following a frustrating first month of the season. Kelenic, 22, appeared in 30 games with the Mariners, posting a .140/.218/.291 slash line with two doubles, a triple, three home runs, 10 runs batted in, four stolen bases and nine walks. Over his past 16 games played (12 starts), Kelenic posted a .105/.209/.211 slash line with a double, a homer, three RBI, five walks and 16 K’s in 43 PAs.
— Seattle traded right-handed reliever Yohan Ramirez to Cleveland for cash considerations Monday.
Ramirez, 27, was designated for assignment by Seattle on May 13. He made seven appearances with the Mariners in 2022, posting a 1-0 record with a 7.56 ERA (7 ER, 8.1 IP) with six walks and 10 strikeouts.