A contrite David Rollins spent his first day in the big leagues Saturday after being activated by the Seattle Mariners prior to their game against Oakland.
Rollins, 25, had completed his 80-game suspension, levied March 27 after he testing positive for Stanozolol, an anabolic steroid that is often used by bodybuilders to build muscle mass.
“I had to do a lot of soul-searching,” said Rollins, a left-handed reliever acquired last December from Houston in the Rule 5 Draft. “I had people on social media talking bad about me.
“I just can’t let that get to me. I’ve learned to really just block out all of the negative and look to the positive, and turn negatives into positives. I feel I’ve done real well with turning this big negative into a better positive.”
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Rule 5 statutes required the Mariners to place Rollins on their 25-man roster once he completed his suspension or risk losing him.
The Mariners had no intention of losing him.
“He was a front-runner to make our club in spring training,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “I don’t think there were any secrets.”
Rollins reinforced that view by making seven scoreless appearances at Triple-A Tacoma during a 16-day rehab period that is allotted to suspended players.
“He pitched extremely well,” McClendon said. “He was 93-96 (mph). He’s a power left-handed arm who we’re excited about and, hopefully, he’ll fit quite nicely into our bullpen.”
The Mariners cleared space for Rollins in a series of roster moves that also saw outfielder James Jones and reliever Mayckol Guaipe recalled from Tacoma.
The three replaced three pitchers — Roenis Elias, Tom Wilhelmsen and Vidal Nuno — who were optioned to Tacoma after Friday’s 9-5 victory over the Athletics.
Rollins marveled at finally reaching the big leagues when, just a few months ago, he wondered if he had blown his chance forever after being so close to winning a job.
“For about a week,” he admitted, “it was, `Man, what am I doing?’ I could have possibly ruined the rest of my career. I could be getting sent home and not being able to play baseball ever again.
“I mean, I thought about that all of the time. It just got to the point where I was like, ‘I’ve just got to look past it and move forward.’ It’s been a long ride, and it’s nice to have it paying off.”
Rollins made his debut Saturday by pitching a scoreless eighth inning in a 2-0 loss to the Athletics.
“The first time is definitely one that I’ll remember forever,” he said. “It felt really good once I got past being nervous. I just settled down and went after hitters like I’ve been doing.”
Rollins said he benefited from substance-abuse classes, which he took at the Mariners’ urging.
“At first,” he said, “it was like, ‘Why am I here?’ Then after being there for a few days, I went open-minded, and it helped me get stuff out that I’ve had in the past. It’s changed me into a completely different person.”
It helped turn him into a big leaguer.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” he said. “It just seems like I’m still dreaming. I had a chance to do it out of spring training, and I kind of got set back. Then I got the call. It’s still crazy to me.”
THE OTHER MOVES
While Guaipe has a chance to stick around a while, Jones’ recall figures to last only through the weekend.
McClendon acknowledged, “Jonesy is here to bridge the gap for the next couple of days. With his speed, he might be able to help us win a ballgame.”
That gap refers to right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma, whom the Mariners plan to active Monday from the disabled list in order to start later that night against Detroit at Safeco Field.
Jones, 26, returns just 10 days — the minimum — after being optioned to Tacoma. He was hitless in eight at-bats over seven games in his previous tour from June 15-24.
Guaipe, 24, made his major league debut earlier this season by pitching 21/3 scoreless innings June 1 in a 7-2 loss to the Yankees. He spent just one day on the big leagues in his previous call-up before returning to Tacoma.
He should get a longer look this time.
“I think so,” McClendon agreed. “We liked this guy in spring training. I loved his slider. I love his ability to throw strikes and the way he can throw it up to 95 and 96 (mph) with a power slider. He’s going to fit in quite nicely.”
Even so, the decision to recall Guaipe had more to do with Wilhelmsen’s recent struggles than Guaipe’s performance at Tacoma, where he was 0-4 with five saves and a 3.94 ERA in 26 games.
“Guaipe is a talented young man who has a bright future,” McClendon said, “but I think we’d all admit that Tommy had not been pitching the way he’s capable of pitching. That move was made out of necessity.”
Will Nelson Cruz be the American League’s starting designated hitter for a second straight year in the All-Star Game on July 14 in Cincinnati?
Find out at 4:30 p.m. Sunday, when the starters for both leagues will be announced on ESPN.
Cruz held a lead of 204,905 votes over Kansas City’s Kendrys Morales, a two-time former Mariner, as of Monday in the final balloting update from Major League Baseball.
The pitchers and reserves for the two leagues will be announced at 4 p.m. Monday on ESPN. The five Final Vote candidates in each league for the last spot on the 34-player rosters will also be announced on Monday.
How rare was it that Logan Morrison, Seth Smith, Nelson Cruz and Brad Miller hit two-run homers in Friday’s 9-5 victory over the Athletics?
The stat-crunchers at the Elias Sports Bureau note that it was only the third time in franchise history that four different players hit homers with at least one runner on base in the same game.
The other times:
• May 20, 1994: Ken Griffey Jr., Edgar Martinez, Tino Martinez and Reggie Jefferson in a 19-2 victory over Texas at the Kingdome.
• May 25, 1999: Griffey, Butch Huskey, Russ Davis and Matt Mieske in a 15-5 victory at Minnesota.
It was four years ago Sunday — July 5, 2011 — that Jamey Wright appeared in his 500th career game and earned his first career save in a 4-2 victory at Oakland in 10 innings.
Only one other pitcher in history appeared in more games before gaining his first save: Frank Tanana, who pitched just 22 times in relief in a 21-year career that spanned 638 games.
Tanana’s only career save came in his 530th game.
Wright had just one other save in a 19-year career that included 471 relief appearances in 719 games. That came last year on May 31 for the Dodgers when he pitched the final three innings of a 12-2 victory over Pittsburgh.
Outfielder Julio Morban was outrighted to Double-A Jackson after clearing waivers. Morban had already been playing at Jackson on an optional assignment after being activated Thursday from the restricted list after missing nearly two months to deal with personal family issues … Mark Trumbo snapped a 0-for-16 skid with a single in the sixth inning. … Cruz and Logan Morrison, entering Saturday, had hit homers in the same game on six occasions. That’s the most by any duo in the majors. Three other pairings had done it five times. … The Mariners are 6-3 this season against the Athletics. They are unbeaten when they score.
The Mariners and Athletics conclude their four-game weekend series at 1:10 p.m. Sunday at the O.co Coliseum. Lefty Mike Montgomery (3-2, 1.62 ERA) will be looking for a third straight complete-game shutout when he faces Oakland right-hander Chris Bassitt (0-1, 2.87).
Bassitt is a reliever making a second straight spot start in place of Athletics ace Sonny Gray, who is still recovering from a nasty bout with salmonella.
The game can be seen on Root Sports and heard on 710-AM and 97.3-FM.