MINNEAPOLIS — Shed Long will eventually be the Mariners’ everyday second baseman. That’s why they acquired him this offseason as part of a plan to rebuild their lineup of the future.
There is no timetable for when he’ll take over that role. It could be next season; it could be next month if Dee Gordon is traded to a contender. Until then, Long has to do other things to get at-bats, including starting in left field on Wednesday in Minnesota — his first start at a position other than second base at the major-league level. He did make a handful of appearances in left field during spring training and started nine games in left field for Tacoma.
“We’ll get him a few at-bats and see how that goes,” manager Scott Servais said. “Just go catch a fly ball and don’t overthink it too much and hopefully throw it to the right base. See it and go catch it. It’s not the first time he’s been out there, so he should be fine.”
Long has been doing early work with outfield coach Chris Prieto and fellow outfielder Mallex Smith almost daily since being recalled from Tacoma.
“We identified that early in spring training that we wanted to move him around,” Servais said. “The more versatility the better. What Marwin Gonzalez does for the Twins is very valuable. We’ve certainly seen Marwin a ton with Houston. That’s kind of a manager’s dream — wherever you put him on the field he’s probably an average to above-average defender.”
Gonzalez, the Twins’ utility player, continued to torture the Mariners with the game-winning RBI on Tuesday night. In 93 career games against Seattle, Gonzalez has a .324/.364/.574 slash line (batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage) with 22 doubles, a triple, 18 homers and 44 RBI.
“The more tools that Shed can put in his shed,” Servais said before laughing at his own unintended pun.
After regrouping from his joke, Servais said there is a key to a successful player in that role.
“You have to want to do it, first of all,” Servais said. “You have to have guys that want to move around the field and help the team anyway they can. If the guy doesn’t want to do it, it never works out well. Shed wants to do it. He wants to stay in the big leagues. He wants to build a name for himself in the big leagues.”
Long was drafted as a catcher and converted to second base. So, he’s familiar with the process.
But it’s very possible that Long could be optioned back to Tacoma this weekend so he can go back to playing every day and continue his development.
- The Mariners will likely use an opener for Wade LeBlanc in the weekend three-game series vs. the Athletics in Oakland. Marco Gonzales will start Friday’s series opener. A reliever and LeBlanc will pitch on Saturday. Mike Leake will pitch the series finale. That would mean the Mariners would start an opener in front of Tommy Milone to open the upcoming homestand on Monday.
- Felix Hernandez (grade 1 lat strain) is still on schedule to pitch this weekend in a rehab start. The Mariners have yet to determine what affiliate he will join to make that start.
- J.P. Crawford (left ankle sprain) hit a three-run homer for High A Modesto on Tuesday night in his first game of a brief rehab appearance for the Nuts. Crawford went 1 for 4 in the game with the homer and two strikeouts. He’s scheduled to play the next two days and then join the Mariners in Oakland.
- The Mariners released right-hander Nick Rumbelow, who had been pitching with Class AAA Tacoma. Rumbelow had an 8.17 ERA in 19 appearances with Tacoma this season. Acquired from the Yankees before the 2018 season for minor league pitchers J.P. Sears and Juan Then, Rumbelow made 16 appearances for the Mariners, posting a 7.58 ERA. While Sears has had uneven success, the 18-year-old Then is rated as the Yankees’ No. 22 prospect per Baseball America. He has a fastball that touches mid 90s.