ARLINGTON, Texas – There was something very different about Wednesday night’s starting lineup vs. the Rangers — Kyle Seager wasn’t in it. The Mariners third baseman is far from Cal Ripken, but it’s a very rare occasion when he isn’t in the starting lineup.
Well the last time Seageer didn’t start a game was on May 10 of last season against the Royals at Safeco Field. That’s was a stretch 146 straight starts. Manager Lloyd McClendon actually gave Seager the day before off (May 9) as well. So he sat out back-to-back games. That probably won’t happen any time soon for Seager.
At the time of those two off days, Seager was hitting .239 with a .734 OPS and McClendon wanted to give him a few days to clear his head.
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But this day off wasn’t about production per se. Seager tweaked his thumb against his bat on an inside pitch that jammed him about a week ago. This is a pretty common injury that players get against the soft area in between the thumb and forefinger. It’s not something you go on the disabled list for, but it’s just a uncomfortable annoyance that doesn’t heal up easily because a bad swing or a inside pitch can irritate it.
“We’re getting him a day,” McClendon said. “His thumb is a little banged up. He’s fine. He could’ve played, but it’s a good time to get him a day. We’ve still got another seven games on the road trip.”
Seager has said the thumb isn’t affecting him at the plate. He has five hits in his last 25 at-bats with three doubles.
“It’s fine,” Seager said. “It’s not a big issue. If you take a good swing it feels good and if you take a bad swing it feels bad.”
So how much has he felt it in the last week?
“I can feel that I’m taking a lot of bad swings,” Seager said with a laugh.
Seager loathes being on the bench. He prides himself on being available to play every day. He’s played in 539 of the team’s 557 games since Aug. 6, 2011.
“I tried talking my way back into it,” he said. “But it wasn’t going to happen. It’s not a big issue. It’s just a day where I will get some work in the cage and be ready if needed later.”
If the Mariners are up late in the game and it’s close, he will be needed. McClendon will have him go in at third base for defensive purposes. He did the same thing on Tuesday night with Austin Jackson.
“My comments to Kyle will be simple, ‘if we get a lead, be ready to go in late for defense,'” McClendon said. “It just makes sense to put your best defenders out there late when you got a lead. If you can get a player off their legs for six or seven innings, that’s a big rest. Hopefully we’ll have a big enough league where he doesn’t have to come in.”
*** There haven’t been many big leads for the Mariners this season. Over their last 16 games, each one has been decided by three or fewer runs. That’s a club record. Of those games, seven have been decided by one run, six by two runs and three games by three runs. Seattle has an 8-8 record during those 16 games. The Mariners are the only team in baseball to not have a win by more than four runs this season.
“We’ve been accustomed to them around here,” McClendon said. “We deal with them.”
There are positives and negatives to playing that many close games. It’s hard on your bullpen and can be mentally and emotionally draining. But they offer some preparation for future situations.
“The positive certainly is that we know we have the ability to win close games that we can execute,” McClendon said. “That comes down to mental toughness as well as physically executing pitches and getting good pitches. The negative part is the manager is close to a heart attack every night.”
*** Danny Hultzen will make his debut on Friday night for Class AA Jackson against Pensacola at Generals Stadium. The Mariners held Hultzen at extended spring training for the first month of the season, wanting him to build arm strength in his surgically repaired shoulder. It will be his first start since May of 2013.
Here’s the Mariners numbers vs. Rangers starter Wandy Rodriguez
Here’s the Rangers numbers vs. Felix Hernandez
Official game notes