SEATTLE — Lefty reliever Lucas Luetge returned Friday to the Mariners in what projects as a short-term promotion.
Luetge fills the vacancy created by Thursday’s post-game decision to option lefty starter Roenis Elias to Triple-A Tacoma in an effort to ease his growing innings count.
But the Mariners still need a starting pitcher for Sunday’s series finale against the Chicago White Sox and are expected to fill that hole by recalling right-hander Erasmo Ramirez from Tacoma.
That suggests Luetge, 27, is in line for another brief big-league stay. He pitched 3 1/3 innings in four appearances over three previous tours but has spent most of the season at Tacoma, where he has a 3.38 ERA in 33 games.
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“We’ve got a couple of days here,” manager Lloyd McClendon admitted. “I just felt that pitching would help us more than a bench player right now. He can come in and get an out here or there.
“Or if something falls apart, we’re protected.”
The Mariners optioned Elias after he pitched 5 2/3 innings in Thursday’s 13-3 victory over the White Sox. That pushed him to 134 2/3 innings for the season; club officials previously cited 170-180 as a targeted ceiling.
“I think he had 130 (innings) last year at Double-A and 12 more (in winter ball) in Venezuela,” McClendon said. “Our plan is to bring him back in the (Aug.19) in the Philadelphia series.”
Effectively, that means Elias, who is 9-9 with a 4.14 ERA, will miss one turn through the rotation.
The Mariners limited Ramirez to two innings and 33 pitches Thursday at Tacoma in anticipation of a recall to start Sunday’s game. He is 1-5 with a 4.35 ERA this season in 12 big-league starts.
Under current plans, the Mariners won’t need a fifth starter after Sunday until Elias’ targeted return because of next Thursday’s open date in the schedule.
Bloomquist out for year
Veteran utilityman Willie Bloomquist will miss the rest of the season after undergoing micro-fracture surgery on his slow-healing right knee.
“He’s going to be on crutches for six-to-eight weeks,” McClendon said. “He’ll be ready to go for spring training.”
Bloomquist suffered the injury July 23 while running out a ground ball. The problem was initially diagnosed as a bruise, but it was slow to heal. Subsequent examinations prepared him for the worst.
“The last MRI had a little piece sticking up (in the knee),” Bloomquist said. “We tried to avoid doing this (surgery), but it just isn’t getting better the way it needs to get better.”
Bloomquist, 36, batted .278 in 47 games prior to his injury. He is under contract through next season after returning last December to the Mariners as a free agent by agreeing to a two-year deal for $5.8 million.
Filling utility role
The Mariners are searching for a veteran to fill Bloomquist’s utility role but, for now, that duty falls primarily to Brad Miller, who recently lost his job as starting shortstop to Chris Taylor.
“I have full confidence in Miller as well as Taylor in being able to move around,” McClendon said. “They can play a lot of different positions.
“Having a veteran like Bloomy, that’s different. But I think the young men will do a fine job for us. We should be just fine.”
The Mariners have three viable candidates for the Most Valuable Player award, according to one of the game’s top stat crunchers: John Dewan of Baseball Info Solutions and author of The Fielding Bible.
Using the Total Runs metric, Dewan identifies second baseman Robinson Cano, third baseman Kyle Seager and pitcher Felix Hernandez as MVP contenders.
Total Runs calculates a total value for a player based on offensive and defensive contributions. It measures four elements: runs created, runs saved, base-running runs, and a positional adjustment.
Los Angeles outfielder Mike Trout is the AL leader at 109, followed by Oakland third baseman Josh Donaldson at 100 and Detroit second baseman Ian Kinsler at 99.
Cano and Seager rank fourth and fifth with 96 and 95 with Hernandez not far behind at 91.
Second baseman Robinson Cano entered the weekend with a .400 on-base percentage. His previous career best was last year at .383 with the Yankees…Cano also entered the day as the American League batting leaders at .335…Left fielder Dustin Ackley had a two-run single Thursday with the bases loaded, which boosted his career average in such situations to .559 (19-for-34) with 41 RBIs…The Mariners, prior to Friday, were 55-17 (.764) when they score at least three runs…Third baseman Kyle Seager, through Thursday, had 25 (of his club-leading 70) RBIs with two outs. First baseman Justin Smoak, currently at Tacoma, was second on the club with 19 two-out RBIs.
It was four years ago Saturday — Aug. 9, 2010 — that the Mariners fired manager Don Wakamatsu, bench coach Ty Van Burkleo, pitching coach Rick Adair and performance coach Steve Hecht.
The club promoted Triple-A Tacoma manager Daren Brown to serve as Wakamatsu’s interim replacement. The Mariners also appointed Roger Hansen as bench coach, and Carl Willis as pitching coach.
The Mariners and White Sox continue their four-game weekend series at 6:10 p.m. Saturday at Safeco Field. Note the time: 6:10 p.m.
Left-hander James Paxton (2-0 with a 2.76 ERA) will oppose Chicago right-hander (and ex-teammate) Hector Noesi (6-8, 4.97). Root Sports will telecast the game.
The series concludes at 1:10 p.m. Sunday. The homestand concludes with three games next week against Toronto.