BOSTON — The roster churn continued amidst the rain drops Sunday morning at Fenway Park as the Mariners made more moves with their 25-man roster with more expected when they return to Seattle.
Perhaps the most surprising of the moves was Felix Hernandez being placed on the 10-day injured list with a right shoulder strain, a day after a miserable outing against the Red Sox. Hernandez made it just 2 1/3 innings, giving up seven earned runs on six hits in the 9-5 defeat Saturday. He also struggled in his previous outing in New York. In his past two outings, he’s allowed 14 runs in 7 1/3 innings.
Hernandez said after the defeat Saturday that his struggles weren’t health related and it was just a bad day with no command.
But Sunday he admitted he felt some pinching in the shoulder on his last few pitches and that his shoulder “doesn’t feel right” and that it got worse in the hours after his outing.
“After the game, he mentioned to the trainers that he didn’t feel great on the last few pitches he threw,” said Seattle manager Scott Servais. “He’s going to have it checked out when we get home tomorrow and have a MRI and see where it’s at from there.”
With Hernandez out and a bullpen used heavily because of shortened outings the past two days, the Mariners brought in two relievers, recalling right-hander Dan Altavilla from Class AA Arkansas and selecting the minor-league contract of Parker Markel from Class AAA Tacoma while optioning outfielder Braden Bishop to Tacoma.
In a quality gesture by the organization, the Mariners flew Bishop to California after the game Saturday so he could spend Mother’s Day with his mom, Suzy, who is dealing with Alzheimer’s and is in hospice care. They will have him report to the Rainiers on Monday instead.
Both relievers were in the clubhouse before the game and available to pitch. However, it’s unlikely they’ll both stay with the Mariners into next week. The Mariners are expected to recall outfielder Mallex Smith on the upcoming homestand.
“Our roster has shuffled quite a bit in the last three or four days,” Servais said. “That’s going to happen when you have some injuries and you are running through some bullpen guys. It’s nothing that’s all that shocking.”
Altavilla returns after making the Mariners’ opening-day roster and appearing in one game in Japan. He was optioned to Tacoma after the trip and then later sent to Arkansas after he struggled with command and diminished velocity with the Rainiers. He was 1-0 with two saves and a 0.00 ERA with Arkansas. In 7 2/3 innings pitched with Arkansas, he allowed just two hits with two walks and 10 strikeouts. Altavilla said his fastball velocity is back up to 95 to 98 mph.
Markel’s path to his first time in the big leagues has been anything but straight. After being selected in the 39th round of the 2010 draft by the Tampa Bay Rays out of Yavapai College in Prescott, Ariz., he pitched for eight seasons in the minor leagues. He spent 2017 pitching for the Lotte Giants of the Korean Baseball Organization. He spent last season with the Sioux City Explorers in the independent American Association.
“Unbelievable story with what he’s gone through,” Servais said. “Ten years and this is his first day in the big leagues.”
The Mariners signed him to a minor-league contract in the offseason after watching him throw a bullpen in September at the team’s complex in Arizona. He threw bullpens for two other teams. But with the Mariners’ complex just down the road from his home, it was an easy decision.
With a fastball that touches 100 mph, he started the season with Arkansas and dominated hitters before getting moved up to Tacoma. He has struck out 35 batters in 17 1/3 innings pitched in 13 combined relief appearances with Class AA Arkansas and AAA Tacoma this season. He is 3-0 with four saves and a 0.52 ERA (1 ER, 17.1 IP) between the Travelers and Rainiers.
“I’ve been around a lot of different places,” Markel said. “Going from (Sioux City) to here is a pretty big jump.”
Markel’s trip to Boston wasn’t exactly normal. The Rainiers arrived in Las Vegas on Saturday morning to open a series. As he was walking to his hotel room that morning, he got a phone call from Tacoma manager Daren Brown.
“In his raspy voice, he was like, ‘Hey, you’re going up,'” Markel said. “It was one of those things where I like had to sit down and think, ‘Dang, did that really just happened.'”
Markel had to do some scrambling. His wife, Chelsey, was driving to Las Vegas from their home in Surprise, Ariz. She was crossing the Hoover Dam when Markel called her with the big news.
“I told her, ‘It’s happening,'” he said. “And she told me, ‘I’m going to try and get there as fast as I can.’ I told her to take her time and that we’d make it work.'”
When Markel’s wife finally arrived, they boarded a flight to Boston at 2:30 p.m. that took them to Atlanta for a connection and then to Boston.”
“We got in around about 2 in the morning,” he said. “It’s been quite the whirlwind.”
The vagabond baseball existence over the past few years made Markel question his place in the game on multiple occasions. He worked a variety of jobs, from retail to construction, in the offseason to help supplement his income.
“Honestly, there were a couple of times where my wife and I sat down in my career, where we were like, ‘Well, do you want to keep doing this,'” he said. “The older you get, you start getting more adult bills and all that kind of stuff. But being 28 now, it was like, ‘Let’s keep grinding through it.’ She pushed me through it. This is the ultimate reason why I kept doing it.”