KANSAS CITY — Erik Swanson stood in the Sacramento airport with his Tacoma Rainiers teammates, waiting for their flight to Sea-Tac International Airport on Monday evening. They’d opened the minor-league season on the road with a five-game series and were now headed back to the Puget Sound for Tuesday’s home opener at Cheney Stadium.
But his ringing cellphone with the caller ID of Andy McKay, the Mariners’ director of player development, changed his travel plans quite drastically. He was headed to the big leagues for the first time in his career.
“At about 7 o’clock, Andy McKay called me and told me I’d be meeting the (Mariners) in Kansas City,” Swanson said. “It was pretty emotional. I was very, very happy. It was kind of cool to be sharing it with my teammates there as well. Just pure excitement for the most part.”
Swanson’s call up came after Seattle reliever Chasen Bradford felt shoulder tightness after his two-inning appearance in the Mariners’ 13-5 win over the Royals. Bradford was placed on the disabled list on Tuesday afternoon with right shoulder inflammation.
“I was fine when I was throwing, but afterward I couldn’t lift my arm,” Bradford said. “It’s just a little inflammation. It already feels better today.”
Bradford will be shut down from throwing for a few days while rehabbing the shoulder and taking anti-inflammatories.
“We’ve used him a lot early,” manager Scott Servais said. “He’s got a little restricted range of motion. He was probably going to be down three to four to five days possibly. Now with the 10-day IL, let’s give him time to get right. It’s April 9th. We’ve got time.”
Swanson’s phone call from McKay was just the start of what will be an eventful 24-hour period leading up to Tuesday’s first pitch.
His first order of business was calling his parents and wife.
“They all had pretty similar reactions,” he said. “My mom started crying. My wife started freaking out. It was a pretty special moment.”
Then Swanson began a little travel adventure to get to Kansas City.
“I had to go back Tacoma last night and got into the stadium about midnight and packed up my stuff,” he said. “I woke up this morning and had to go back to the stadium that was FedEx’d there. And then I drove to the airport and flew out at 9:45. Surprisingly, I got about five hours of sleep last night and an hour on the flight. So I got enough for the day.”
While Swanson was starting for Class AAA Tacoma, and scheduled to start on Tuesday for the Rainiers, he will pitch out of the bullpen for the Mariners as a long reliever. He’s rated as the Mariners’ No. 9 prospect by MLB Pipeline and No. 12 by Baseball America. In his first outing with the Rainiers, he pitched five innings, allowing no runs on six hits with eight strikeouts.
“This is Swanny’s first taste of the big leagues,” Servais said. “Swanny knows who he is. And even though he doesn’t have any experience at this level, he’s one of the more mature guys in understanding how gets people out. He had one really good outing for us at spring training that day against the Dodgers where you really saw what he could do.”
While Swanson’s future is as a starter and he’ll likely start a game or two for the Mariners this season, Servais believes this call up to pitch in the bullpen will be beneficial.
“I’m actually a big fan of bringing guys up, even if they’ve been starters in the minor leagues to bring them up in this role out of the bullpen,” he said. “I do think it breaks them in and makes it a little easier for them. When I was first broke into the league with the Astros, they used to do it a lot with their young pitchers. They’d bring their best Triple A starter up and put him in the bullpen and kind of get him some experience and then slide him into a start down the road and they can run with it from there.”
The Mariners gave right fielder Mitch Haniger a scheduled day off for Tueday’s game. In the midst of a stretch of 18 straight games, Servais is giving each of his starting position players some forced time off. So how did he tell the ultra-intense Haniger, who wants to play every game, that he wouldn’t be starting?
“You just go up and tell them and walk away quick,” Servais said with a laugh. “That’s the best way to do it. No, but he understands.”
Tim Beckham (hamstring tightness) was out of the lineup for a second straight day. Servais said he could have started Beckham at shortstop for Tuesday’s game, but decided to give him one more day off as a precaution.