Yusei Kikuchi was cleared to play in the All-Star Game on Tuesday, but is no longer going to participate.
The Mariners reinstated Yusei Kikuchi from the injured list Monday morning, meaning he passed his second required COVID-19 rapid test and was cleared to participate in the 2021 Major League All-Star Game.
However on Monday evening, Kikuchi was placed on the inactive list for the game and replaced by Tampa Bay reliever Andrew Kittredge. MLB didn’t offer an exact reason for the change.
MLB sources said Kikuchi is not suffering from an injury, but felt like he wasn’t in a position to be able to pitch in the game. American League manager Kevin Cash preferred to have a full staff of pitchers, so Kikuchi was forced to the inactive list and Kittredge, who grew up as a Mariners fan in Spokane, was added to the roster.
Kikuchi took and passed a COVID-19 rapid test after the Seattle’s game Sunday at T-Mobile Park. He flew to Denver to represent the Mariners as their only selection for the American League All-Star team. He attended the media pregame availability session and offered no indication of not playing.
“Obviously, a ton of stuff going on these past 24 hours,” Kikuchi told The Seattle Times through interpreter Kevin Ando at the All-Star media availability. “My No. 1 priority was to get healthy again, get better. I got a ton of rest, a lot of sleep, in order to get back and be part of this All-Star event.”
Kikuchi was placed on the COVID-19 IL on Sunday morning after experiencing a COVID-related symptom following his start against the Yankees.
“For about two days, it was just some stomach issues, and just a slight fever,” he said.
Because he was vaccinated, he immediately took a rapid COVID test, which was negative. But he needed to pass a second test to be cleared to participate in the All-Star Game.
He was in good spirits during the All-Star media availability session.
“Yesterday, I started to feel a lot better, and today I feel way better,” he said.
To make room for Kikuchi on the Mariners’ active 26-man roster, infielder Donovan Walton was optioned back to Class AAA Tacoma after the game Sunday. The Mariners also designated reliever Will Vest for assignment to open up a spot on the 40-man roster. Seattle needed to clear a 40-man roster spot because catcher Cal Raleigh, who was called up and made his MLB debut Sunday, took Kikuchi’s spot on the 40-man roster.
Kikuchi, 30, has been Seattle’s best pitcher this season, posting a 6-4 record with a 3.48 ERA in 16 starts with 34 walks and 98 strikeouts in 98 1/3 innings.
In his past 12 starts, Kikuchi is 6-3 with a 2.77 ERA, walking 25 and striking out 78 since April 29.
In his past five starts, he is 3-1 with a 2.27 ERA with 14 walks and 29 strikeouts. He’s holding opponents to a .196 batting average in that stretch. His 11 quality starts this season are tied with Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers and Robbie Ray of the Blue Jays for most by a left-handed pitcher.
Vest, 26, was selected in December’s Rule 5 draft out of the Tigers organization. In 32 games with Seattle this season, he posted a 1-0 record with a 6.17 ERA with 38 hits allowed, 18 walks and 27 strikeouts. The right-hander made his MLB debut with the Mariners on opening night, April 1 against San Francisco. He was on the COVID injured list from May 21-28.
Because Vest was a Rule 5 draft choice, a team can claim him off waivers, but they must add him to their active roster and keep him there for the rest of the season. If he clears waivers, he can be returned to Detroit.
Seattle Times columnist Larry Stone, who is in Denver for the All-Star Game, contributed to this story.