The Mariners’ spring shortstop competition came to an abrupt end Saturday when an examination revealed Chris Taylor suffered a broken bone in his right wrist.
The injury is expected to sideline Taylor for four-to-six weeks and effectively sends Brad Miller into the regular season as the club’s starting shortstop.
“For me, for my focus,” Miller said, “it really doesn’t change anything. It’s really just a bummer because I know Chris, and I know how hard he works.”
General manager Jack Zduriencik said Taylor suffered a break in the triquetrum, which is one of eight small carpal bones in the wrist. Taylor is not expected to require surgery, but he will wear a brace for about 10 days.
“It’s a tough break for the kid,” Zduriencik said. “He had the (broken) pinkie finger a year ago in Triple-A. Now, he’s battling for a job. He’s done a really nice job for us. It would have been interesting to watch it unfold.”
Taylor suffered the injury Friday in a 10-5 victory over Milwaukee at Peoria Stadium when he was hit on the wrist on a pitch from Brewers right-hander Jim Henderson. The play was ruled a foul ball.
After a brief examination, Taylor remained in the game and lined a single up the middle before exiting for a pinch-runner.
“I mean, he hit a line drive,” Miller said. “He knocked the guy (Henderson) on his butt right after it happened. So we were like, ‘OK, he’s fine.’ ”
Taylor said afterward he believed the pitch hit him flush in the wrist.
“It was a fastball with two strikes,” he said. “I checked my hands a little bit, and it got me in the wrist.”
Taylor, 24, remained upbeat after arriving Saturday prior to undergoing a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exam.
“It swelled up a little bit overnight,” he said, “but that was expected.”
Taylor and Miller were engaged in a strong battle for the starting shortstop job. Taylor was batting .421 (8 for 19), while Miller is batting .412 at 7 for 17 after going 1 for 2 in Saturday’s 11-4 victory over Arizona in Scottsdale, Arizona.
“They’ve both played extremely well,” Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said. “You just hate to see the competition end in this way. But those things happen. It’s part of the game.”
Miller said the competition with Taylor didn’t affect their relationship.
“I get it,” Miller said. “There’s one shortstop on the team. I get it. But for us, we push each other. We work hard, and we cheer for the other one. The last thing we want to see is somebody get hurt.
“He plays the game the right way. That’s for sure. He’s a guy who I definitely respect how he plays because I want to play like that, too. I want to play hard all of the time, too.”
Zduriencik sought to find a silver lining.
“When you have depth,” he said, “you can sustain an injury like this. You just hate to see it happen to anybody. I said from Day One, this is a nice ballclub, but we’ve got to stay healthy.”
Taylor was batting .372 last season through 35 games at Triple-A Tacoma and was poised for a promotion to replace a struggling Miller when he suffered a broken pinkie finger on his left hand during a slide at second base.
That injury forced Taylor to miss a month and delayed his major league debut until July 24. He then batted .287 in 47 games while sharing duty with Miller over the final two months.
“It’s unfortunate for him,” Zduriencik said. “I feel for him. He got through the previous one. He’ll get through this one.”
40-MAN ROSTER SIGNED
The Mariners reported all players on their 40-man roster are now signed. Club officials said everyone agreed to terms and that there were no club renewals.
Players not yet eligible for arbitration, which generally requires three years of major league service, have little leverage in negotiations. If the two sides reach an impasse, the club has the option simply to “renew” the contract.
The minimum salary for this season is $507,500, up from $500,000 in 2014.
McClendon is increasingly confident the Mariners will carry a second left-handed reliever in addition to Charlie Furbush.
“Now, having said that,” McClendon cautioned, “we still have a long way to go. But I like what I’ve seen to this point.”
The Mariners are sifting through five possibilities: Lucas Luetge, Tyler Olson, Rafael Perez, David Rollins and Joe Saunders.
Lefty reliever Edgar Olmos is still “two or three weeks away” from returning according to McClendond. Olmos is recovering in his recovery from a shoulder injury that prompted Major League Baseball to void a Feb. 24 waiver claim by Texas.
Olmos rejoined the Mariners on March 5.
Felix Hernandez is slotted for an extra day of rest after his start Sunday in a simulated game against a collection of minor league players. His next start will come March 21 against the Chicago Cubs in Mesa, Arizona.
The Mariners also have lefties James Paxton and J.A. Happ slotted next week to pitch in simulated games.
Plans call for Paxton to throw 45 pitches over three innings Tuesday in his first spring outing after being slowed earlier in camp by a sore forearm.
Happ is shifting to a simulated game on Wednesday after making two Cactus League starts. That prevents him from facing the Oakland Athletics, the team he will probably face in his first regular-season start.
Veteran right-hander Kevin Correia, signed March 9 to a minor league contract, is scheduled to make his spring debut Tuesday following Hisashi Iwakuma against the Chicago White Sox.
The Mariners upcoming pitching plans include the following: