The call, Logan Kensing said, came around midnight.
It was Tacoma Rainiers manager Pat Listach, and he had good news: after pitching in Tacoma’s game Saturday in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Kensing, a 33-year-old right-handed reliever, was headed back to the big leagues for the first time since 2013.
So Kensing —along with left-hander Roenis Elias, who was also recalled — flew back to Sea-Tac Airport from Denver with the Rainiers, then hopped in a car that took the players to Safeco Field for Sunday afternoon’s game against the Chicago White Sox.
The plane landed at about 12:45 p.m., Kensing said, and the game started at 1:10. He got to the park in about the second inning.
By the sixth, he was warming up in the bullpen, then was called upon to relieve Mariners starter Taijuan Walker with two outs, a runner on base and Adam LaRoche at the plate.
And LaRoche promptly smoked “a sinker that did not sink at all,” Kensing recalled later, for a two-run home run that cut Seattle’s lead to 7-6.
“I swear he looks into your soul when you’re standing on the mound,” Kensing said. “But I was actually thinking I had a better beard than he did at the time. But he won today, and hopefully I’ll get to face him again.”
Kensing did strike out Alexei Ramirez to end the inning, then retired the first two batters in the seventh before he walked Adam Eaton and was replaced by right-hander Carson Smith.
The appearance in itself was a bit of a milestone. Kensing had appeared in parts of seven seasons with the Marlins, Nationals and Rockies, but before Sunday, his one-game stint with Colorado in 2013 was his only appearance in a big-league game since 2009.
He spent the past two seasons with Tacoma, and posted a 2.23 ERA for the Rainiers in 32 1/3 innings this season.
Making it back to the bigs, he said, is “why we all play the game, and that’s why some of us just keep playing. There’s other jobs out there, you can do other stuff, but at the end of the day, you know your window of opportunity is always shrinking every day even if you’re good, so you just give it everything you’ve got until you can’t go anymore.”
Kensing lost the entire 2010 season after having surgery to remove bone chips from his pitching arm — he underwent that procedure twice, he said — and has spent most of the time since in Triple-A.
He had a solid 2014 season for the Rainiers, posting a 3.58 ERA in 88 innings, but the Mariners’ bullpen was so dependable that reinforcements weren’t needed.
This year, not so much.
“Luckily, being around the game, you kind of know that you don’t have expectations going into a year other than personal goals,” he said, “because we all want to get to the big leagues, but when other guys are doing great, you can’t. You tip your hat to them and hope that they keep going.”
IN PEN, FOR NOW
Elias is back with the Mariners, too, but not yet back in the starting rotation.
Recalled with Kensing from Triple-A Tacoma after Saturday’s game, Elias will work out of the bullpen in the coming days. The two relievers fill the roster spots left open by Fernando Rodney, who was designated for assignment, and Danny Farquhar, who was optioned to Tacoma.
Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon said Elias, who is 4-6 with a 4.27 ERA in 13 starts for the Mariners this season, could eventually return to his role as a starter. He holds a 4-2 record with a 7.34 ERA in his 12 starts with the Rainiers, though he threw a season-high seven innings and allowed only two runs in his last outing.
“(Vidal) Nuno pitched yesterday, so I need somebody in the bullpen,” McClendon said. “You could very well see Elias start real soon. Not sure exactly when. Right now I need him to pitch out of the bullpen, because we’re short.”
The 27-year-old left-hander gives the Mariners four southpaws in the bullpen, as opposed to three right-handers – Kensing, Tom Wilhelmsen and Carson Smith
33 AND COUNTING
With his two-out, two-run double in the third inning, Nelson Cruz has reached base safely in 33 consecutive games.
That’s a personal career best, the longest such active streak in the American League this season, and the third longest in the majors, behind St. Louis’ Matt Holliday (45 games) and Toronto’s Troy Tulowitzki (41).
First baseman Mark Trumbo was a late scratch from Saturday’s lineup due to a sore knee, McClendon said, but he returned to the lineup Sunday and went 1 for 3 with a double, a walk and a run. … Second baseman Robinson Cano was in the lineup as the designated hitter. McClendon said Cano cut his knee while sliding Saturday, but that he also wanted to simply “get him off his legs a little bit.” … Cano’s home run was his 14th of the season, matching his 2014 total.
The Mariners begin a three-game series against the Oakland Athletics with a 7:10 p.m. game Monday at Safeco Field. Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma (5-2, 3.74 ERA) is scheduled to pitch for the Mariners against A’s left-hander Felix Doubront (1-1, 3.89). It will be Iwakuma’s first start at home since he threw a no-hitter against the Orioles on Aug. 12. The first 20,000 fans at Monday’s game will receive a commemorative Iwakuma T-shirt.