Domingo Santana walked back from the training room Wednesday morning with his right elbow heavily wrapped, not quite yet knowing how many baseball games he will watch from the Seattle Mariners dugout as this season reaches its final two months.
An offseason trade acquisition from the Brewers, Santana had played in all but four games for the Mariners this season entering the day. But, as expected, he was held out of the starting lineup for the first time since May after being removed early in Tuesday’s loss to Texas with soreness in his right elbow.
“I came over here to play every day and earn my playing time,” Santana said. “It just hurts to sit down and not be able to play the game you love.”
Santana had an MRI scan completed Wednesday morning, but results were not available before game time. Seattle manager Scott Servais, who is currently juggling 12 players on the injured list, is hoping not to lose another after second baseman Dee Gordon returned to the IL with a quad strain Tuesday.
“We’ll keep our fingers crossed, and hopefully it comes out OK,” Servais said.
Santana made a pair of hard throws from right field in the second inning Tuesday, aggravating the elbow he said has been nagging at him since returning from the All-Star break.
On the first throw, he was off-balance, trying to throw down Roughned Odor advancing to third on a Logan Forsythe single to right. Santana made a sliding attempt at the soft liner, but the ball got away with him, and the frantic attempt to recover with the quick throw further tweaked the elbow. The next at-bat, Asdrubal Cabrera came right back at Santana with a fly ball, and he made another hard throw trying to catch Odor tagging up.
Santana was replaced the next inning, and underwent some preliminary tests that were encouraging, but still felt soreness Wednesday morning.
“It’s been bothering me for a while now,” Santana said. “I would say maybe (since) right after I came back from the All-Star break. That throw, I think, was a sign that I need to take some time off, because that didn’t feel very good.”
He said the elbow wasn’t sore in the 90 games he’s played ahead of the break, but said he’s dealt with a similar issue earlier in his career, and it crept back up during the 10 games he’s appeared in since Seattle resumed its season.
“I didn’t throw for those four days, and I came back, and out of the gate I kept making throws,” Santana said. “I just thought it was a little bit of tightness. I just kept on playing, and it just never got better.”
The elbow has also bothered Santana at the plate, and he can feel it when he swings, he said, despite trying to keep it warm with Icy Hot.
Despite enduring some minor slumps during the season, and leading the majors with 132 strikeouts, Santana has been one of Seattle’s most consistent offensive offerings, posting a .273/.342/.472 slash line in 100 games.
He leads the Mariners in runs scored (56), hits (107) and RBIs (65), and at one point led the majors in the latter category. His 19 doubles ranked tied for first for Seattle, and his 19 homers and 40 walks each rank third.
“He’s been better than I think maybe I anticipated,” Servais said. “His approach of what he does is unorthodox, a little bit, when you look at his swing. He’s a big guy and he’s kind of crunched over up there, and you say, ‘How is this all going to work?’
“But, he’s got big-time power to the opposite field, he knows the strike zone very well. He was on a streak there early in the year. Every time there was somebody in scoring position, he was knocking them in. He knows how to hit with runners in scoring position. He’s been pretty good.”
Servais said a recent dip in Santana’s offensive production — his is 5-for-35 (.143) since the All-Star break with one homer, two RBIs, three walks and 16 strikeouts — is not related to the elbow injury.
“Domingo is a big part of everything in the middle of our lineup,” Servais said. “I know he struggled a little bit here recently. His timing has been off some. He’s a big threat, certainly when we face left-handed pitching, because we are so left-handed dominant offensively. He’s a big part of keeping it balanced so when you don’t have him it gets a little tough.”
▪ Hunter Strickland (lat strain) pitched an inning in relief with Triple-A Tacoma on Tuesday, allowing one run on a solo homer, two hits and struck out two on 21 pitches.
“He was trying to work in a few more breaking balls last night,” Servais said. “He hung one and a guy hit one out. He felt great coming out of it. He’s anxious to get out there again. He’s moving in the right direction. Exactly what we wanted to see out of him. Now is the time to work on those things and get a feel for the breaking ball a little bit more consistently.”
How many more rehab appearances Strickland makes before returning to the Mariners is dependent on how he regroups physically after each outing, and how he is throwing, Servais said.
“Now it kind of gets into, ‘OK, does it look like it should look?’ We don’t want to rush him,” Servais said. “Even when he comes back, you won’t see him run out there three days in a row or anything like that. We’ve got to be cautious building him back into it.”
▪ Mitch Haniger (ruptured testicle) is still progressing, Servais said, but slowly. He is still playing catch, hitting off the tee and lifting weights, but hasn’t resumed running or agility work.
▪ Braden Bishop (lacerated spleen) has regained much of the weight he lost — about 7-10 pounds — when he underwent surgery in June.
“He’s pretty wiry thin anyway,” Servais said. “You noticed it right away in his face and his neck. He’s starting to get his weight back. His color looks better. I don’t have a timeline yet, but he’s a little further along doing his baseball activity than Mitch is.”
▪ Ryon Healy (lower back stiffness), who has been rehabbing at Seattle’s facility in Arizona, will have tests done on a possible hip injury that has cropped up.
“Unfortunate,” Servais said. “He’s kind of been battling this back issue for a long time, and right when he seems like he’s ready to get over the hump and start picking it up, he has a little setback.”