SEATTLE — Joaquin Benoit’s ailing shoulder finally became too much for the Mariners to continue nursing along on a day-to-day basis.
"We decided he needs to take a step back and regroup," manager Scott Servais said, "instead of trying to chase it every day. Just give it some time. Let’s get it right. We’ve got a lot of games ahead of us."
The Mariners placed Benoit, their veteran right-handed setup reliever, on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to April 22, prior to Monday’s series opener against Houston at Safeco Field because of what it termed shoulder inflammation.
The tentative plan is a complete shutdown for Benoit over the next three or four days before having him undergo a reexamination to determine a recovery program. Servais said the Mariners believe it will be "a two-or-three-week thing."
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The Mariners replaced Benoit by recalling right-hander Mayckol Guaipe from Triple-A Tacoma. Guaipe, 25, had three saves and a 2.16 ERA in 8 1/3 innings over six appearances for the Rainiers.
"I’ve been really working hard on keeping the ball down in the zone," said Guaipe, who compiled a 5.40 ERA last season in 21 big-league games.
"I’d had success in the minors and, up here, I was a little inconsistent (last season) with my pitches. I really focused on that at the end of last year and this year as well."
Servais said Guaipe would likely pitch early in games and, with his ability to work multiple innings, the Mariners can shift lefty Mike Montgomery and right-hander Tony Zych to "more prominent roles."
Veteran right-hander Joel Peralta will replace Benoit as the primary set-up reliever for closer Steve Cishek. Peralta blew two one-run leads in the eighth inning earlier in the season when Benoit was unavailable.
"We’ll see how the lineup looks," Servais said. "Depending on what type of hitters we’re facing and what part of the lineup we’re in in the seventh and eighth, we’ll match it up there. Peralta will probably be the guy we’ll lean on."
Benoit, 38, first encountered soreness in his upper back and shoulder in spring training. The ailment initially appeared to improve through rest, and he made five appearances prior to going on the disabled list.
"I thought he was going to be fine after we gave him some time down," Servais said. "He came back and felt good the day after he threw the first day. Then we brought him back again, and he didn’t really respond."
The Mariners acquired Benoit on Nov. 12, 2015 from San Diego in a trade for two minor-league players: right-handed pitcher Enyel De Los Santos and infielder Nelson Ward.
Center fielder Leonys Martin is on pace for 27 doubles and 27 homers through the first one-ninth of the season and, without question, the Mariners will take that.
"He’s got some lightning in the bat," manager Scott Servais said. "There’s no doubt. He’s got some pull power. But he needs to be a little more consistent with the contact. That’s what we’re shooting for."
That’s the rub.
Martin entered Monday’s series opener against Houston with 24 strikeouts in 60 at-bats…he is striking out 40 percent of the time. Three American League players are actually worse: Russell Martin, Justin Upton and Michael Sano.
Actually…that’s not bad company — and it’s still a relatively small sample size — but the Mariners are concerned. Martin continues to get extra sessions with hitting coach Edgar Martinez.
"When I go to home plate," said Martin, who is batting just .200, "I try to fight on every single pitch. Hit the ball hard. That’s all I can do. Just hit the ball hard. I’m not trying to hit homers. Nothing like that."
A little luck would help, too.
Martin has a .265 average on balls in play. The league average is .289, which suggests he has been unlucky. (That’s a club-wide issue. The Mariners have an overall .253 BABIP, which ranks next-to-last among AL clubs.)
Despite the numbers, Martin believes he is getting better swings than a year ago, when a disappointing season cost him his starting job at Texas and, consequently, increased the Rangers’ willingness to trade him.
"Yeah, for sure," he insisted. "That’s a good thing and what I keep in my mind. Every single day, I try to hit the ball hard at least twice. I’m usually doing that, and that’s a good sign.
"If I hit the ball hard, what happens (next), I can’t do anything about it. Just hit the ball hard and put it in play. That’s all I can do."
That should be enough…provided he puts the ball in play more often. So the sessions with Martinez continue.
"The one thing about Leonys." Servais said, "is he will stay aggressive. He will let it fly."
It’s no surprise that the Mariners, with their increased emphasis on analytics, rank near the upper end among all clubs in terms of employing defensive shifts. It also seems that’s the new norm for life in the American League West Division.
That is a 24.4 percentage that ranks seventh among the 30 clubs. Stats LLC defines a shift as an alignment in which three infielders are positioned on one side of second base.
AL West-rival Houston, which opened a three-game series Monday at Safeco Field, led all clubs through Saturday at 41.0 percent. Two other AL West clubs ranked in the top eight: Los Angeles, fifth at 27.2; and Oakland, eighth at 23.6.
Defending division champion Texas ranked 18th at 12.8 percent.
World Series-champion Kansas City, which is often draws raves for its defense, ranked 25th in defensive shifts at 9.3 percent. The Royals arrive Friday for a three-game weekend series at Safeco Field.
Hi-A Bakersfield right-hander Andrew Moore was picked as the California League pitcher of the week for April 18-24 after working seven no-hit innings against Lake Elsinore (Padres) in his only start.
Moore, 21, walked one and struck out three on April 22 in the 10-0 victory. The bullpen gave up two hits after Moore departed after 97 pitches. He is 1-1 this season with a 1.14 ERA in 23 2/3 innings over four starts.
The Mariners selected Moore with the 72nd overall pick in the 2015 draft after he spent the three previous years at Oregon State.
Hi-A Bakersfield right-hander Tyler Herb and two relievers combined on a two-hit shutout Sunday in a 8-0 victory over visiting Lake Elsinore.
Herb, 23, gave up one single over seven innings while walking two and striking out three in an 85-pitch performance. He is 2-0 in three starts while allowing two earned runs in 18 innings. He has 22 strikeouts and six walks.
Ramon Morla and Kyle Schepel each pitched one inning in completing the shutout. Right fielder Chantz Mack drove in five runs with a three-run double and a two-run double.
The Mariners selected Herb in the 29th round of the 2014 draft. He spent last year at Lo-A Clinton, where he was 7-8 with a 4.64 ERA in 27 starts.
It was 26 years ago Tuesday — April 26, 1980 — that center fielder Ken Griffey Jr. delivered one of the signature moments of his career when he ran down a drive by Jesse Barfield at Yankee Stadium.
Griffey made a leaping catch at the wall that snatched back a home run. It is 89 days, as of Tuesday, before Griffey will be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Houston outfielder Colby Rasmus was picked as the American League player of the week for April 18-24 after batting .316 (6-for-19) with five runs scored, one double, four home runs, 10 RBI, five walks and a stolen base over six games…the Mariners are one of only five clubs in the last 100 years whose first nine victories went to nine different pitchers. The others are the 2012 Pirates, the 2008 Athletics, the 1992 Angels and the 1966 Pirates.
The Mariners and Astros continue their three-game series at 7:10 p.m. Tuesday at Safeco Field when right-hander Nathan Karns (1-1 with a 5.28 ERA) faces Houston lefty Dallas Keuchel (1-3, 7.56).
Keuchel is the American League’s reigning Cy Young Award winner.
The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest and heard on 710 ESPN.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners
FREQUENCY OF DEFENSIVE SHIFTS
Compiled by Stats LLC
Numbers through April 23
Club Percentage of times using defensive shifts
Houston Astros 41.0
Milwaukee Brewers 38.6
Colorado Rockies 31.8
Tampa Bay Rays 30.1
Los Angeles Angels 27.2
New York Yankees 26.3
Seattle Mariners 24.4
Oakland Athletics 23.6
Cincinnati Reds 22.4
Philadelphia Phillies 20.6
Cleveland Indians 20.4
Baltimore Orioles 18.2
Washington Nationals 17.2
San Diego Padres 17.0
St. Louis Cardinals 16.5
Toronto Blue Jays 15.5
Pittsburgh Pirates 14.9
Texas Rangers 12.8
Arizona Diamondbacks 12.6
Atlanta Braves 12.1
Los Angeles Dodgers 12.0
Boston Red Sox 11.1
Chicago White Sox 11.0
Detroit Tigers 11.0
Kansas City Royals 9.3
San Francisco Giants 8.2
Minnesota Twins 8.2
New York Mets 8.2
Chicago Cubs 7.7
Miami Marlins 3.8