OAKLAND, Calif. — Sam Tuivailala grew up in the Bay Area, a casual Golden State Warriors fan, so he knows all about Kevin Durant’s much-discussed Achilles injury.
The Mariners’ 26-year-old right-handed reliever can relate, having spent the past 11 months recovering from a ruptured right Achilles.
Now healthy, Tuivailala was activated and available to play Tuesday when the Mariners begin a two-game set against the Oakland A’s.
When his physical therapist told him he was cleared to return to the Mariners’ active roster, Tuivailala said “it kind of felt like I got my first call-up again. I was eager and excited to get here.”
Tuivailala, who was injured during a rundown play last August, watched on TV as Durant went down during the NBA Finals.
“I saw the play and I was just shocked he was able to walk on it after,” he said. “When I saw that I didn’t think it was an Achilles because I couldn’t put any type of weight on it. I hope he has a safe and smooth recovery, like I did.”
Tuivailala acknowledged he didn’t know anything about Achilles injuries when it happened to him. “I quickly found out it was not a fun rehab,” he said. “I’m glad that I got past it.”
Manager Scott Servais said Tuivailala cleared every hurdle in his rehab assignment in Tacoma and is healthy. Still, the Mariners intend to be cautious with him early.
“Certainly for a pitcher, it’s a big deal,” Servais said of the injury. “That’s his back leg, his drive leg. But the Achilles has not been an issue for the last few months. It’s been more a matter of getting his arm in shape.”
In fact, Tuivailala was activated off the 60-day injured list after experiencing shoulder discomfort.
Even that was tied to the Achilles injury. “I didn’t have a normal offseason throwing program,” Tuivailala said. “Basically my spring training was the rehab.”
Tuivailala, who attended Aragon High School in San Mateo across the Bay from Oakland, had friends and family — including his girlfriend and her family — at Tuesday’s game.
“I think he’d be excited to make his comeback wherever, but he’s from the area here,” Servais said. “He’s chomping at the bit to get out there, and help.”
More Mariners moves
The Mariners made three other personnel moves Tuesday, including bringing infielder/outfielder Kristopher Negron and pitcher Erik Swanson up from Class AAA Tacoma. Outfielder Mac Williamson was designated for assignment.
Negron, 33, was immediately put into Tuesday’s starting lineup, batting eighth and playing left field. He played for the Mariners last year but has spent all of this season in Tacoma, where he hit .310 with 12 home runs.
“My mindset it just to come in and help the team any way I can. Infield, outfield, come in and play defense,” he said before the game. “It’s good seeing all the guys again, giving them all hugs.”
Servais said Negron has been a big help with younger players in Tacoma, including a few who are now with the Mariners. “He’ll fit in well and we hope he swings the bat like he was in Triple A.”
Swanson, who was 1-5 with a 7.98 earned-run average as a starter before being sent down to Tacoma, has spent time at Triple A working on his slider and getting comfortable as a reliever. Servais said he likely would be used in long relief, possibly as an opener, and did not rule out the possibility he could get the call in that role for Wednesday’s game.
“Going to the bullpen has been good for me,” Swanson said. “They see me maybe getting a few more opportunities with the bullpen. I intend fully to take advantage of this opportunity and kind of run with it.”
• Felix Hernandez, who has been sidelined since mid-May with shoulder stiffness, was scheduled to play catch on the mound Tuesday before throwing a 25-pitch bullpen session on Thursday, Servais said.
• Reliever Hunter Strickland, on the 60-day IL since late March with a right lat strain, will throw live batting practice in Tacoma on Wednesday, then is likely to get a rehab assignment there or elsewhere, according to Servais.
“He’s moving along really well,” Servais said. “I saw his bullpen with my own eyes the other day in L.A., and he looks great.”
• The Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association announced that outfielder Mitch Haniger is the Mariners’ 2019 recipient of the Heart and Hustle Award, giving to a player on each team for his passion, desire and work ethic. Haniger has been shelved since early June due to a ruptured testicle.
“Certainly it’s been a challenging year for him,” Servais said. “But he’s very deserving of that award.”