Seattle Mariners

Mariners turning immediately to Leake in bid to halt skid

Right-hander Mike Leake, acquired Wednesday from St. Louis, will start Friday for the Mariners in their series opener against Oakland at Safeco Field.
Right-hander Mike Leake, acquired Wednesday from St. Louis, will start Friday for the Mariners in their series opener against Oakland at Safeco Field. AP

The Mariners aren’t wasting any time in putting newcomer Mike Leake into their rotation.

Friday was Leake’s day to pitch on regular rest, so Leake will get the call Friday when the Mariners open a three-game weekend series against Oakland at 7:10 p.m. at Safeco Field.

Yovani Gallardo and Andrew Albers were each pushed back one day to Saturday and Sunday. It’s not yet certain whether Marco Gonzales, who was scheduled to start Sunday, will also be pushed back or simply lose his spot.

The hope is that a new month and, for Leake, a new home can get things turned around as the Mariners look to break a five-game skid that has them 4 1/2 games behind Minnesota in the race for the American League’s final wild-card berth.

Leake, 29, is also in need of a turnaround. After posting a 2.97 ERA for St. Louis in 16 starts through June, he is 1-6 with a 6.94 ERA in his last 10 starts. Overall, he is 7-12 with a 4.21 ERA.

"Like a lot of guys," general manager Jerry Dipoto said, "you go through highs and lows in the season. In Mike’s case, we’re going to bet on the big picture…There’s really no reason to believe his skills set has changed."

The Mariners acquired Leake on Wednesday from St. Louis in a trade for minor-league infielder Rayder Ascanio. The Cardinals agreed to pay $17.5 million of the $55.6 million remaining in Leake’s contract through the 2020 season.

St. Louis also forked over $750,000 from their international bonus pool. Clearly, the Cardinals wanted to move on and seemingly regarded Leake’s five-year, $80 million contract, signed in December 2015, as a mistake.

Even so, the trade didn’t go over well in the Cardinals’ clubhouse.

"`Is this a joke?’" outfielder Tommy Pham told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in describing his reaction after learning the details. "April Fool’s was months ago. It was shocking to all of us.

"Leake’s a true pro. There’s not too many guys who show up every day and just do their job. He’s the last of a dying breed."

The Mariners view Leake as a reliable middle-of-the-rotation starter who is tracking toward a sixth straight season of 30 or more starts. They also saw a pitcher who has a plus-8.6 WAR (wins above replacement) rating since 2013.

Having a healthy arm available every fifth day is no small thing to the Mariners after what they’ve endured this season in seeing injuries ravage their rotation.

The money the Cardinals included effectively turned the Mariners’ financial obligation to roughly $38 million over three years. The Mariners saw that as a reasonable investment for a mid-rotation starter.

"This is as much about the next three, potentially four, years as it as about the next four or five weeks," Dipoto said. "Not only were we able to help our short-term outlook, but I believe we helped address some of our longer-term needs."

As for Leake’s recent struggles?

"That’s when you can acquire players," manager Scott Servais said. "You don’t get them when they’re at the top of their game. You have to take a chance on some guys. I think the deal makes a lot of sense for us going forward."

OTHER WATCHPOINTS

***The Athletics (58-75) plan to start lefty Sean Manaea (9-8 with a 4.55 ERA) in Friday’s series opener. He is 3-2 with a 4.37 ERA in six career starts against the Mariners, including 1-2 and 4.50 in three starts at Safeco Field.

***Both clubs are expected to add players to their rosters prior to the game. MLB rules permits rosters to expand from 25 to 40 players on Sept. 1.

***The Mariners (66-68) have lost five in a row, which matches their longest losing streak of the season. They also lost five straight on two previous occasions.

***The Mariners hold a 7-6 lead in the season series despite outscoring the Athletics by a 68-53 margin.

***"No sucking in September" starts tonight at Safeco Field. In an environmental move, plastic straws will not be available when purchasing beverages. Fans can request a paper straw.

TIME CAPSULE

It was 21 years ago Friday — Sept. 1, 1996 — that Alex Rodriguez borrowed a bat from Ken Griffey Jr. and hit a three-run homer in the fifth inning that propelled the Mariners to a 5-1 victory over Baltimore at the Kingdome.

Rodriguez had to borrow a bat after his bat was taken out of play in a protest by Orioles manager Davey Johnson. That was done in an apparent response to Mariners manager Lou Piniella earlier protesting a bat used by Bobby Bonilla.

Both bats were subsequently checked and cleared.

Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners

  Comments