With Andrew Moore pitching Monday’s series-opener against the Kansas City Royals, the Mariners had to make a corresponding move to make room for the right-hander on their 25-man roster.
That unlucky distinction went to right-hander Dan Altavilla, who was optioned to Triple-A Tacoma prior to Monday’s game.
Altavilla, 24, is 1-1 with a 5.46 earned-run average in 29 appearances for the Mariners this season. He has also pitched four games in Tacoma, where he has allowed two runs and five hits in 5 2/3 innings.
The decision to send Altavilla down is twofold, Mariners manager Scott Servais said. The young right-hander needs to hone his secondary pitch, and the club wants to see Altavilla “simplify (his) approach a little bit in how (he’s) going about it.”
Also, the Mariners need to carry an extra position player while All-Star designated hitter Nelson Cruz continues to recover from a right knee injury sustained during Saturday’s game against the Angels. Cruz was not in Monday’s lineup, though Servais said he was “hopeful” he might be available Tuesday.
“He’s better. He’s moving around better. Still sore,” Servais said. “He’s getting some treatment right now. Maybe later we can see if he can swing at all. He won’t be on the field, but maybe in the cage. We’ll see where we can go from there.”
Cruz said he was “feeling better,” and while he still isn’t ready to play, he doesn’t think the injury should affect his swing once he’s able to pick up a bat again.
Altavilla, Servais said, will “be back here at some point.” His issues are similar to that of closer Edwin Diaz.
“He’s certainly got the stuff to get outs in the big leagues. It’s just about getting pitches and getting sequences going a little bit more consistently, and make it simpler,” Servais said. “When you’ve got that kind of stuff, you’ve got to get ahead in the count. That’s typically when he gets into trouble – throws a lot of pitches and gets behind in the count.”
Altavilla had pitched relatively well since allowing four earned runs in one inning in a 10-4 loss at Texas on June 17, then two runs in one inning in his next outing on June 20. Since then, he has appeared four times and pitched 3 2/3 scoreless innings while allowing only one hit and two walks.
“Danny’s going to have a long career – and a very good one – pitching at the back end of bullpens, there’s no doubt,” Servais said. “It’s just growing pains right now for him.”
FELIX GETTING THERE
With right-hander Felix Hernandez scheduled to make his third start on Tuesday since returning from the disabled list, what is Servais hoping to see?
“Nine shutout innings, three hits would be great,” Servais cracked.
But really: “Just keep us in the ballgame. Felix, last time out, the first couple innings were just so-so. And then he kind of kicked it into gear after we got some runs and tightened the game up. I thought his changeup the last time out was the best changeup I’ve seen out of Felix probably since I’ve been here. It was more of a swing-and-miss changeup; it wasn’t coming out quite as hard. It was really good. It took him a few innings to get going. I hope he gets going a little quicker tomorrow.”
Hernandez lasted six innings in each of his first two starts since recovering from the shoulder injury that kept him out for nearly two months.
The Mariners continue their three-game series against the Royals with a 3:40 p.m. game Tuesday at Safeco Field. Hernandez (3-2, 4.66 ERA) is scheduled to pitch for the Mariners. The Royals are slated to start left-hander Danny Duffy (4-4, 3.54).