Justus Sheffield won’t make his scheduled start Sunday in the Mariners’ final game before the All-Star break.
About an hour before Wednesday night’s game vs. the Yankees, he was placed on the 10-day injured list with a left forearm strain. Right-handed pitcher Erik Swanson was activated from the 10-day injured list and in uniform for the Mariners for the game.
During and after his brief and abysmal 1 2/3-inning start Tuesday vs. the Yankees, it became clear that the Mariners couldn’t allow the struggling left-hander to make his next turn in the rotation, which would’ve come against the Angels.
Sheffield couldn’t make it out of the second inning, giving up six runs on five hits with three walks, two strikeouts, a massive three-run homer allowed to Giancarlo Stanton, a wild pitch that scored a run and a hit batter.
It was his worst start in a disappointing season full of poor outings that has left him questioning everything and searching for answers.
After the game, a morose Sheffield called the outing “not good” multiple times.
“It’s tough,” he said. “Obviously, it’s not fun going out and not doing your job, and not playing the way that you know you’re capable of playing and playing the way that I know I can play.”
He later said he wasn’t feeling 100 percent when he took the mound and has spent a lot of time getting treatment in the trainers’ room the past two weeks trying “to get right.”
“I’m just battling through some things,” he said.
When asked to clarify what wasn’t 100 percent, Sheffield wouldn’t elaborate. He was asked specifically if he had any arm issues.
“This is just a body issue,” he said. “We’ll see. I’ve been in the training room working on some things, getting some stuff right. Hopefully, we’ll figure it out, and maybe I’ll be able to get into the positions I need to get into.”
Manager Scott Servais didn’t mention any health issues concerning Sheffield after the game. He was asked about it before Wednesday’s game.
“It’s something that we are concerned about,” Servais said pregame. “He’ll see our doctor today when he comes in and make sure everything’s OK with him physically and see where it goes from there.”
When asked whether he could provide any clarity on what was ailing Sheffield, Servais did not go into specifics.
“It’s not fair for me to speculate or mention that stuff,” he said. “I know Sheff mentioned some things to you guys yesterday, but I’m not going to get into that until I’ve got something definite to tell you, and right now, I’ve got nothing definite to tell you.”
In 15 starts this season, Sheffield has a 5-8 record with a 6.48 ERA. In 73 2/3 innings, he’s struck out 59 batters and walked 35 while opponents are posting a .316/.391/.520 slash line with 14 homers. He’s allowed five runs or more in seven starts and pitched six complete innings only three times. Over his past five outings, he’s pitched 19 innings and allowed 24 runs for an 11.37 ERA with 12 walks, 17 strikeouts and seven homers allowed. Opponents had a .375/.447/.693 slash line in that span, and the Mariners lost four of those five outings.
A year ago, he posted a 4-3 record with a 3.58 ERA in 10 starts with 48 strikeouts and 20 walks in 55 1/3 innings pitched. It provided hope that past command and mechanical issues had been remedied and that he would be a stalwart in Seattle’s rotation.
Instead, he was probably going to be optioned to Tacoma to work through his issues and refind his confidence if not for the IL stint.
With few starting pitching options in Tacoma, the Mariners will likely have a bullpen start Sunday. Sheffield could be eligible to return immediately after the All-Star break.
Swanson made two one-inning appearances on his rehab assignment with Class AAA Tacoma, allowing a run on two hits with a strikeout. He was placed on the 10-day injured list May 29 with a groin strain. Before the injury, he was outstanding, allowing one run in 13 innings pitched with a save and 14 strikeouts.
Santiago appeal set for Thursday
Servais confirmed that Hector Santiago’s appeal of his 10-game suspension will be heard Thursday morning in Seattle. MLB is flying out an arbiter, John McHale, to rule on the appeal.
Santiago will have four lawyers and a representative from the MLB Players’ Association at the appeal.
“We’ll keep our fingers crossed that something good comes out of that,” Servais said. “We’ll see where it goes from there. It’s a crazy situation. I used to say unfortunate, but it’s just ridiculous, in my opinion, on how this whole thing has been handled from the get-go.”
Santiago was ejected from a June 27 game vs. the White Sox for being in violation of the league’s new enforced policy on the use of foreign substances by pitchers.
After being removed from the game in the fifth inning, umpires checked Santiago’s arms and glove. After home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi took a long look on the inside of the glove, he met with the rest of the umpires, summoned Servais, ejected Santiago and confiscated the glove, which was supposed to be sent to MLB for inspection.
Crew chief Tom Hallion, who was not on the field for the first game, spoke to a pool reporter after the game and offered this explanation, “He was ejected for, when his glove was inspected for having a foreign substance that was sticky on the inside palm of his glove.”
Santiago said the sticky substance was rosin and sweat. With high humidity in Chicago, he was using the rosin bag, which is legal and behind every pitchers mound, to keep the sweat from dripping down his arms.
“I know that I didn’t use anything today,” Santiago said after the game. “I wasn’t using anything besides rosin, which was given to us.”
MLB issued the suspension two days later, saying Santiago used an undisclosed foreign substance, despite not having anyone actually inspect the glove.
“Just to be clear there was no foreign substance on his glove; it was rosin and rosin is behind the pitcher’s mound, so it’s not a foreign substance,” Servais said when it was announced. “And because it was rosin, I am surprised, to some degree, but I understand what Major League Baseball is trying to do. They’re trying to create a level playing field and understand why they decided to do this in the middle of the season.”
In past years, he would have had to fly to New York. The Mariners are hoping that Santiago’s suspension is overturned and that he’s also available to pitch Thursday afternoon vs. the Yankees. There is a chance that the appeal could leak into game time.
If the suspension were upheld, Santiago would be out 10 days and the Mariners would not be allowed to fill his spot on their active roster, which would be difficult, considering the attrition to their starting rotation.
“We will see what happens,” Servais said Wednesday. “I hate to have to lose Hector and lose that roster spot for 10 days. I just think that’s unbelievably unfair for a guy who did nothing wrong.”