With a slew of right-handed starting pitchers coming up over the next three series and the Mariners in need of some offensive punch, they have turned to one of Class AAA’s top hitters for some help.
Seattle selected the minor-league contract of left fielder/first baseman Jose Marmolejos of Class AAA Tacoma and added him to the active roster. Marmolejos immediately was inserted into the starting lineup in left field for the game Monday night against the Astros. That move paid dividends as Marmolejos hit a solo home run in the second inning.
To make room for Marmolejos on the 40-man roster, right-handed pitcher Jimmy Yacabonis was designated for assignment. The Mariners have 10 days to outright, trade or release Yacabonis after placing him on waivers.
“First of all, he looks great,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said of Marmolejos. “I don’t know what they are eating down there, but his biceps are freakin’ huge right now. I forgot how big he was. He’s put together a really nice run down there. We will use him in left field. He’s been getting a lot of reps in left field. He’ll see some DH days. That’s kind of where he’ll fit.”
Marmolejos’ run with the Rainiers has been better than “really nice.”
After making the Mariners’ opening-day roster and posting a .139/.266/.278 slash line with two doubles, three homers, nine RBI, 14 walks and 32 strikeouts in 31 games and 94 plate appearance, he was designated for assignment May 20, cleared waivers and outrighted to Tacoma on May 23.
Since then, Marmolejos, 28, has been Tacoma’s best hitter and one of the top performers in Class AAA baseball. In 72 games and 303 plate appearances, he has a .360/.452/.700 slash line with 13 doubles, two triples, 23 homers, 71 RBI, 58 runs scored, 45 walks and 56 strikeouts. Among qualified hitters, his on-base percentage, slugging percentage, on-base plus slugging percentage are No. 1 in all of minor-league baseball while his batting average is ranked No. 2.
“I know he’s made some adjustments with the bat,” Servais said. “Certainly the numbers look great. He’s had a heck of a season in Triple A and we’re hoping he can help us out a little bit with some thump in that lineup. It’s good to have him back. And hopefully he takes this opportunity and runs with it.
But even Servais admitted that offensive production numbers in the Triple-A West are more inflated than usual due to the lack of pitching depth for teams and some very hitter-friendly parks in Reno, Salt Lake City, Albuquerque and El Paso.
“Keep in mind that the level of pitching is quite a bit different in Triple A than it is in the big leagues. I’m anxious to see what it looks like. He has always done a pretty good job of controlling the strike zone. And I think he’s done an excellent job of doing that at the minor-league level.”
As a reference point, the Triple-A West average slash line is .272/.351/.468 with 1,409 homers hit by the 10 teams in 990 games. Meanwhile, the league ERA is 5.55.
“Maybe the depth of quality of Triple-A starting pitching is a little bit different than maybe it has been in years past,” Servais said. “And certainly at this time of year, when you get in the second half of seasons with all the injuries that take place at the big-league level and guys get called up, sometimes you’re gonna have guys at the Triple-A level that are pitching or filling roles that they’re just not of the quality that maybe it has been in years past.”
The plan to have outfielder Kyle Lewis start his rehab assignment with Class AAA Tacoma on Monday has been delayed.
Servais said he hoped Lewis, who is recovering from surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee, would start playing in games at designated hitter this past weekend. But that plan has been delayed a few times as Lewis has tested his surgically repaired knee in the past few days with some workouts.
“He went went through a series of running the bases and doing some different things on the bases, which included I think kind of sliding on a sliding pad,” Servais said. “He just wanted to go through everything. I know coming out of that yesterday he is sore today. So today is going to kind of be recovery day for him, and then we’ll see how he responds to that.”
Servais clarified that it was general body soreness from the running workout and not specific soreness to the repaired knee. He did not offer a potential start date for Lewis’ rehab assignment.
Said Servais: “We’re still very hopeful to get him out there soon.”