It’s been a long time, relatively, since Seattle Mariners reliever Steve Cishek took the mound in a Major League Baseball game.
OK, so it’s only been since October. But spending the first six weeks of the season on the disabled list is enough to make any pitcher long to return to his seat in the bullpen.
“I need to get the first one out of the way, for sure,” Cishek said before Seattle’s Monday night game against the Oakland Athletics, the first of a seven-game homestand. “Let’s just say that.”
The Mariners activated Cishek on Monday, optioning left-hander Zac Curtis to Double-A Arkansas to accommodate the move. Cishek, a 30-year-old right-hander, was placed on the 10-day disabled list on March 31 as he recovered from October surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left hip.
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Cishek said he originally hoped to recover in time for the start of the season, thinking “it was just going to be a simple labrum repair. … My goal was opening day. To be a month and two weeks after opening day is a little disappointing, but at the same time, it needed to be done, I needed to get the surgery and I’m just glad to be back now. It was definitely long, though.”
Mariners manager Scott Servais said Cishek was unlikely to jump right into his eighth-inning role on Monday “unless it absolutely calls for it.” Cishek began last season as the Mariners’ closer and totaled 25 saves, but also blew seven save opportunities and was demoted in August to an eighth-inning, setup role.
Still, Cishek finished the 2016 season with a 2.81 ERA in 64 innings pitched. His presence in the bullpen will be a welcome one.
“We’ll try to ease him back into it, try to get his feet under him, so to speak,” Servais said. “It’s been a while since he’s been here, but glad to have him back. Obviously, he means a lot to our bullpen. Had a nice year last year. Obviously, that’s another arm down there that we can match up against some righties and see how he does.”
Second baseman Robinson Cano was in the Mariners lineup on Monday. Until he wasn’t.
When Servais spoke with reporters prior to batting practice, he said he had penciled Cano into the lineup, but that he was doing some on-field work with trainer Rick Griffin and that he had yet to hear the final word as to whether Cano’s injured quadriceps had responded well enough for him to play.
Turns out it hadn’t. Cano, who has already missed three consecutive games due to the injury, was replaced at second base by Taylor Motter, who was originally slotted to play left field. Instead, Guillermo Heredia moved from center field to left, and Jarrod Dyson was inserted into the lineup at center field.
The injury news was better for outfielder Mitch Haniger, who was placed on the 10-day disabled list April 26 with a strained oblique muscle after beginning the season with a .342 batting average and 1.054 OPS.
Haniger did some work in the batting cage on Monday, the next step in a recovery process the Mariners hope will include a rehab assignment as early as this weekend.
“That’s the plan,” the 26-year-old outfielder said. “Hopefully, everything goes well these next couple days. Starting to ramp everything up. Sights set on this weekend to hopefully get in a game, if everything goes well.”
Servais said he hopes Haniger can make his big-league return during Seattle’s next road trip.
“I’m not in any pain,” Haniger said. “Like I said, I’m not really trying to do anything 100 percent right now to kind of avoid that, let this last week build strength back and get into baseball activities, because all the other stuff is good.”
PAXTON PLAYS CATCH
Servais said injured left-hander James Paxton (left forearm strain) played light catch “the other day” and is on track to throw a bullpen session either Wednesday or Thursday, “which is great news.”
Injured right-handers Felix Hernandez (shoulder bursitis) and Hisashi Iwakuma (shoulder inflammation), Servais said, are “probably a little bit behind Pax.”
The Mariners announced Wednesday that Iwakuma is expected to miss four to six weeks.
The Mariners continue their three-game series against Oakland with a 7:10 p.m. game Tuesday night at Safeco Field.
Right-hander Chase De Jong (0-3, 7.85 ERA) is scheduled to pitch for the Mariners against right-hander Andrew Triggs (5-2, 2.21) for the Athletics.
The game can be seen on Root Sports and heard on 710-AM.