It wasn’t the need for a fresh arm that prompted the Mariners’ latest bullpen move. It was the need for a healthy one.
The Mariners recalled right-hander Dan Altavilla from Triple-A Tacoma prior to Tuesday’s game at Atlanta after placing right-hander Tony Zych on the disabled list because of a strained flexor bundle in his elbow.
Altavilla, 24, returns this season for a fourth big-league tour after compiling a 1.08 ERA in 15 appearances over the last six weeks at Tacoma.
It could be a short stay.
Manager Scott Servais said right-hander David Phelps could be activated as soon as Wednesday after experiencing no day-after problems with his elbow after throwing a simulated inning prior to Monday’s game.
The move with Zych, 26, is retroactive to Aug. 20. His injury isn’t believed to be serious but more an issue of fatigue.
"When we went to carrying the extra position player (earlier in the month)," Servais said, "those guys in the bullpen are getting used and getting up more often.
"We knew that could lead to some more wear and tear on some guys, Tony was a guy we were concerned about."
The concern stemmed from Zych’s ongoing recovery from off-season shoulder surgery, which forced him to open the season on the disabled list.
"The stuff hasn’t been coming out as crisp lately," Servais said. "We saw some command issues a couple of outings ago. It’s probably the best thing to just give it 10 days to let it calm down and then come back from there."
Zych evolved this season into a key setup reliever in going 6-3 with a 2.66 ERA in 45 games.
Phelps, 30, left an Aug. 6 outing in Kansas City because of what club officials termed an impingement in his elbow. He was 1-1 with a 2.57 ERA in seven outing after arriving in a July 20 trade from Miami for four minor-league players.
Altavilla was 1-1 with a 5.46 ERA in 29 previous big-league appearances while also going 1-0 with a 1.61 ERA in 19 games at Tacoma. He served as the Rainiers’ closer in recent weeks and has six saves in seven opportunities.
Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma’s recovery from a sore shoulder remains continues to drag along. His latest bullpen workout on Monday drew merely an "OK" assessment from Servais.
Iwakuma, 36, has encountered a series of setbacks since the injury force him to the disabled list after a May 3 start against the Los Angeles Angels.
"He’ll probably throw another bullpen,’ Servais said. "We’re running out of time. Guys have to be able to ramp it up pretty quickly to have any chance to make an impact for us down the stretch.
"Last time, Kuma got to this point, then he got to the simulated game, we put a hitter in there, and it was like, `Whoa, this isn’t even close.’ It didn’t feel good."
***Club officials are far more optimistic that James Paxton and Felix Hernandez will return in September.
Hernandez began a throwing program Tuesday in his recovery from a second flareup of bursitis in his shoulder, which surfaced after a July 31 start at Texas.
Paxton is scheduled to begin throwing this week after exiting an Aug. 10 start against the Angels because of a strained left pectoral muscle.
ALSONSO PAYING OFF
All it took, apparently, was a little change in approach to turn Mariners first baseman Yonder Alonso back into the player whose production earlier this year turned him into an All-Star for the first time in his career.
“I’ve got to give a lot of credit to the staff,” he said recently. “I’ve been coming in here early and working to make a few adjustments on things they’ve been noticing.”
Alonso went 3-for-5 with two doubles and three RBIs on Monday in helping the Mariners to a 6-5 victory over Atlanta in the start to a three-game series.
“I am just competing and trying to get on base,” he told reporters afterward. “I know if I get on base, it’s a greater chance with the lineup that we have.”
True enough. He also scored twice, including once on a slide where he eluded an attempted tag by Braves catcher Kurt Suzuki.
“Big night for Alonso,” manager Scott Servais said. “He was on everything all night.”
The Mariners acquired Alonso, 30, from Oakland in an Aug. 6 trade for outfielder Boog Powell.
It was a short-term move since Alonso will be a free agent this winter, but the Mariners, anticipating a heavy dose of right-handed pitching in the closing weeks, felt the need for additional left-handed punch.
Early returns weren’t promising.
Alonso went 1-for-14 in his first four games, which continued a slide that started roughly a month earlier in Oakland (17-for-79 over 26 games). The Mariners pushed for a more-aggressive approach.
“Earlier in the year,” manager Scott Servais said, “he was attacking the fastball. What we saw against us is if you didn’t locate the breaking ball, he really punished you. We wanted him to get back to that.”
Alonso is 13-for-30 in his last eight games (.433) with six runs and eight RBIs.
It was 14 years ago Tuesday — Aug. 22, 2003 — that Shigetoshi Hasegawa’s scoreless streak ended at 28.2 scoreless innings when he gave up a one-out homer to Jason Varitek in the eighth inning of a 6-4 loss to Boston at Fenway Park.
Hasegawa’s streak began June 3, covered 25 games and remains a franchise record for a reliever. The overall franchise record is 34 1/3 innings by Mark Langston in 1988.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners