SEATTLE – There was no need for the Seattle Mariners to call upon a closer against the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday afternoon at Safeco Field.
The Rays, of course, won 3-1, behind yet another stellar outing by ace right-hander Chris Archer.
But if the Mariners had needed someone to protect a lead in the ninth inning, it would not have been Fernando Rodney, whose role as the team’s closer will be occupied by others – it was right-hander Carson Smith on Saturday night – until he finds a solution to the issues that have so far yielded a 6.94 ERA and three blown saves in 17 chances.
Smith, the 25-year-old right-hander, recorded his first career save in Seattle’s 2-1 victory over Tampa Bay on Saturday, and manager Lloyd McClendon said afterward that it might be a while before Rodney pitches in the ninth inning again.
He reiterated that stance prior to Sunday’s game, saying that Rodney, who saved a franchise-record 48 games in 2014, needs time to work with pitching coach Rick Waits and bullpen coach Mike Rojas “and break down some things, and try to get it straightened out, try to get him cleaned up.”
In the meantime, Smith remains a viable option. So do a few others.
“It could be (Smith),” McClendon said. “It could be (Charlie) Furbush. It could be (Mark) Lowe. It will not be Rodney.”
NO CANO V. ARCHER
Slumping Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano was given the day off against Tampa Bay starter Chris Archer, against whom Cano is 0-for-13 with four strikeouts in 15 career plate appearances. Archer is 6-4 this season with a 2.01 ERA and 97 strikeouts in 76 innings.
Plus, Cano has just four hits in his last 31 at-bats, and went 0-for-4 again on Saturday to drop his season batting average to .239.
Conclusion: he needs a day off. Two days off, actually, with the Mariners off on Monday before they begin a three-game series in Cleveland.
“He’s had a tough homestand,” McClendon said. “(It) gives him a mental break. Hopefully recharge the batteries and be ready to go in Cleveland.”
Cano, McClendon said, was fine with the day off.
“I don’t think anybody complains about not playing against Archer,” McClendon cracked.
IWAKUMA THROWS BULLPEN
Hisashi Iwakuma, sidelined by a lat strain since April 24, threw another bullpen session – his second – prior to Sunday’s game against the Rays.
Iwakuma was slated for 35 to 45 pitches, McClendon said, and the plan was for him to mix in “everything” in his repertoire.
The right-hander is scheduled to throw another bullpen next week, after which he will be re-evaluated so the Mariners can “see if he’s ready for a (simulated) game,” McClendon said.
From there, McClendon said, it “depends on how the sim game goes. If all goes well, he’ll be ready to go out on rehab.”
Meanwhile, left-handed starter James Paxton, who was placed on the disabled list May 29 with a strained middle finger on his pitching hand, has another five or six days before he will be reevaluated to determine a rehab plan. After he left his start on May 28 with discomfort in his finger, he was sent to the DL and shut down from any throwing for two weeks.
Paxton will not accompany the team to Cleveland for its three-game series beginning Tuesday.
Despite injuries to Paxton and Iwakuma, Seattle starting pitchers have posted a 1.88 ERA in their last six starts. “We’ve had two blows to the front end of our rotation,” McClendon said. “Guys have stepped it up and done a nice job for us.” … Logan Morrison extended his hitting streak to 14 games with a single over the head of the second baseman in the ninth inning. … Left-handed reliever Vidal Nuno, who accompanied Mark Trumbo to Seattle in the recent trade that sent Dominic Leone, Welington Castillo and two prospects to Arizona, made his Mariners debut on Sunday. He pitched two-thirds of an inning with a strikeout and allowed a sacrifice fly, though the run was charged to Tom Wilhelmsen.
Seattle has Monday off, then begins an eight-game road trip with a three-game series beginning Tuesday against the Cleveland Indians (4:10 p.m). Left-hander Roenis Elias (2-3, 2.94 ERA) is scheduled to start that game for the Mariners against reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Cory Kluber (3-6, 3.61).
Christian Caple can be reached at email@example.com. Twitter: @ChristianCaple