First baseman Daniel Vogelbach and reliever Mike Morin were brought up from Class AAA Tacoma
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Thanks to a run of strong starting pitching, the constant shuffling of the their bullpen due to injury and ineffectiveness has not had a detrimental effect on the Mariners … yet. But at some point, the accumulation of it all could loom costly.
The Mariners lost two more relievers with injuries on Friday afternoon, placing right-handers Juan Nicasio (right knee effusion) and Dan Altavilla (right ulnar collateral ligament strain) on the 10-day disabled list. Seattle recalled first baseman/designated hitter Daniel Vogelbach and selected the minor league contract of reliever Mike Morin to fill their spots. Vogelbach was inserted into the starting lineup at first base on Friday night in place of Ryon Healy.
Nicasio, 31, is 1-3 with a 5.34 ERA and an American League-leading 14 holds. He is fourth among all MLB relievers with an 18.50 strikeout to walk ratio (37 strikeouts, 2 walks).
His knee issue isn’t thought to be serious. Effusion is just a fancier word for swelling in the knee. It’s something that has been bothering him for a while and continued to get worse with each day of usage and working out.
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“I’ve been feeling it in my knee the last few weeks,” he said. “You want to keep going and getting better. I tried to keep going, but my knee has been killing me.”
Nicasio admitted that he felt it in his recent outing in Houston where he struggled with his fastball command. Because it’s on his right leg, the knee causes his pain when he pushes off the rubber in his delivery.
“It’s hard to pitch,” he said. “Sometimes it’s why my fastball has been going up and down because you can’t push. I’ll be okay. I’ll get the swelling to calm down in a couple days and I’ll be good.”
Nicasio will still be able to play catch and keep his arm in shape. But he won’t be allowed to run.
“The doctor here looked at it and thought it was best to let it quiet down, so that’s what we are going to do,” Servais said. “He just didn’t look comfortable the other night with his fastball. I think that’s why you saw him go to a lot of the breaking pitches because he didn’t have the same velocity or life on the ball. I think it played into how things went for him.”
Altavilla, 25, is making a second trip to the disabled list this season. His previous stint was for inflammation in his acromio-clavicular joint in his shoulder. In 22 relief appearances with the Mariners this season, he is 3-2 with five holds and a 2.61 ERA (6 ER, 20.2 IP).
He felt some tightness and soreness in his forearm while throwing before Thursday’s game. Any time there is an issue with the UCL, it’s a concern that Tommy John surgery (Ulnar Collateral Ligament replacement) would be needed. Altavilla underwent a MRI on Friday in St. Petersburg and was scheduled to fly back to Seattle on Friday night. He’ll meet with team doctors to go over the results.
“We are hoping we are out ahead of it and it’s not too serious,” Servais said.
Why not bring two pitchers back instead of just one?
“We’ve got some relievers that haven’t pitched a ton, (Roenis) Elias hasn’t pitched much,” Servais said. “Our starters have been going pretty deep. I think we are in — knock on wood — okay shape for the weekend and then we’ll see where we are out of that. We’ve got Nick Vincent coming back soon as well. We’ll play it day-to-day right now.”
Morin, 27, was claimed off waivers in the offseason from the Royals. He has appeared in 20 games for Class AAA Tacoma, posting a 2-1 record with three saves and a 3.24 ERA. Servais and general manager Jerry Dipoto were familiar with Morin from their days in the Angels organization. Morin pitched in parts of four seasons (2014-17) at the big league level with the Angels. He has 183 MLB appearances, posting a 10-8 record with a save and a career 4.61 ERA.
This is Vogelbach’s third time up with the Mariners this season. He’s hitting .200 (12 for 60) with two doubles, two homers and five RBI in 22 games with Seattle. In 32 games with the Rainiers this season, he’s hitting .304 (34 for 112) with 9 doubles, 10 home runs, 24 RBI and 28 walks with only 18 strikeouts. He has on-base percentage of .444 and is slugging .652 (1.095 OPS) .
“I wanted to give Healy a day off today,” Servais said pregame. “He’s been real hard on himself. But I think Ryon’s playing fine. He’s been outstanding defensively and he’s gotten some big hits. But I hate to tell him, but he’s going to make more outs. It’s part of the game. But he gets a little frustrated. But late in the game if the game is tight, Ryon will be in there.”
Vogelbach’s stay with the Mariners could be short. Vincent is nearing a return after going on the disabled list with a groin strain. He and catcher Chris Hermann are reporting to Class A Modesto for a rehab assignment this weekend. Vincent is scheduled to pitch on either Saturday or Sunday for one inning. If all goes well, he could be activated for the homestand that begins on Monday.
As part of the day’s roster shuffle, the Mariners’ No. 2 prospect — first baseman Evan White — was promoted to Class AAA Tacoma from Class A Modesto. However, Dipoto confirmed the jump to the highest level of the affiliates was just a temporary move for White. With Vogelbach called up and Cameron Perkins on the disabled list, the Rainiers needed a first baseman. So the Mariners decided to let White get a taste of the higher level of competition.
White will eventually return to Modesto, but a promotion to Class AA Arkansas after the All-Star break is possible if he continues to play well. White is already a Major League-level defensive player at first base and is one of the best athletes in the organization. He’s hitting .282 with a .758 on-base plus slugging percentage, 10 doubles, three triples, three homers and 24 RBI in 50 games with the Nuts.