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Mariners notebook: Sardinas appears likely to return from Tacoma

Utilityman Luis Sardinas could be returning to the Mariners after a 10-day stay at Triple-A Tacoma.
Utilityman Luis Sardinas could be returning to the Mariners after a 10-day stay at Triple-A Tacoma. AP

SEATTLE — Utility infielder Luis Sardinas reached his required 10-day stay in the minors Tuesday and could be headed back to the big leagues to help fill the gap created by an injury to shortstop Ketel Marte.

That move could come as soon as Wednesday.

The Mariners initially opted to replace Marte by recalling shortstop Chris Taylor prior to Sunday’s game in Cincinnati, but Taylor committed two errors Monday that led to four unearned runs in a 5-0 loss to Oakland.

Shawn O’Malley started Tuesday at shortstop, but club officials have repeatedly indicated they don’t view him as an everyday alternative to Marte, who suffered a sprained left thumb Saturday on a slide at second base in Cincinnati.

The Mariners have made no announcement regarding a possible roster move, but Sardinasdid not play Tuesday for Triple-A Tacoma in its 3-0 victory at Round Rock (Rangers).

Sardinas, 23, beat out Taylor in spring training for duty as the club’s utility infielder but he played sparingly over the first month, which prompted a May 14 decision to option him to Tacoma in order to get some regular at-bats.

Players who are optioned to the minors can’t be recalled for 10 days unless they replace a player put on the disabled list. Sardinas is batting .406 (13-for-32) in eight games for the Rainiers.

Manager Scott Servais indicated Taylor would get an opportunity to rebound from his two-error performance but also warned: "You have to perform. This is a do-good league. If you do good, you stay. If you don’t, you don’t stay."

Marte is expected to be ready to play when eligible to return June 6 from the disabled list.

O’MALLEY ADJUSTMENTS

When O’Malley plays shortstop, the Mariners tend to adjust their defensive infield alignments because they believe he moves better to his left than to his right.

"It’s up to us to help get him in the right spots," Servais said. "We talked about moving around our infielders and giving him the best opportunity to be in the right spot."

The Mariners also believe O’Malley has a tendency to stay back on grounders, which gets exploited by opponents to a greater degree at the big-league level. Charging the ball is a point of emphasis in pre-game drills.

But O’Malley chooses to "just play" once the game starts.

"I believe the preparation I do before the game is getting me ready to make whatever play I need to make," he said. "I try not to be thinking out there, `I need to be doing this’ or `I need to be doing that.’ It’s more read and react.

"A lot of it comes down to being athletic. Sometimes, it doesn’t look good. But if you get the job done, at the end of the day, that’s all that matters."

O’Malley said he shakes off any criticism that suggests his skills at shortstop are below big-league norms.

"I came up as a shortstop," he said. "My job is to catch it and throw it and hit the guy in the chest. I don’t take (the criticism) too much to heart. All it does is fuel my fire. It’s just going to make me work harder."

DEFENSIVE SHIFTS

Here’s a point to remember the next time an opposing hitter beats one of the Mariners’ defensive shifts: the Mariners, by at least one defensive metric, lead the majors with 15 saved runs through defensive shifts.

"I thought we’d be near the top," Servais said, "but I didn’t know whether we’d be No. 1."

Analytics from ESPN/Baseball Info Solutions show the Mariners have employed 558 shifts on balls in play and are saving 2.69 runs per 100 shifts. Here’s another point to note: Seventeen other clubs have used more shifts than the Mariners.

Colorado ranks second with 14 runs saved (in 630 shifts), followed by San Diego with 13 runs saved (in 583 shifts) and Tampa Bay with 12 runs saved (in 483 shifts).

The Rays have the second-best save percentage at 2.48 runs saved per 100 shifts.

Arizona ranks first in overall shifts at 656, followed by Toronto and Oakland at 655. Kansas City is the worst-shifting club in the majors at a net minus-2 runs for its 545 shifts.

MARTIN/AOKI SWITCH

Hot-hitting Leonys Martin remained in the leadoff spot for a third straight game, while Nori Aoki, who filled that role for much of the season, batted ninth — Martin’s usual spot.

"You look at our lineup, you’re just flipping one spot," Servais said. "Nine to one. You’re just giving an extra at-bat to Leonys Martin. That’s how I look at it."

Martin effectively forced the switch by going 16-for-38 over the last 11 games, which raised his average from .198 to .259 and his on-base percentage from .274 to .335.

"I do think it is (sustainable)," Servais said. "First of all, he’s swinging at strikes for the most part. I don’t think he’s swinging as hard. Every so often, he’ll take the big hack, but he’s controlling his emotions a little better and calming down.

"I also like that when he’s on top, his bunt game, for whatever reason comes into play more. I do think it is sustainable, but players will let you know. We’re riding the hit hand right now and, hopefully, it will continue for quite a while."

Aoki entered Tuesday’s game with a .229 average and a .315 OBP, which are down considerably from .287 and .353 over his four previous big-league seasons.

"He’s a contact guy," Servais said. "He hits a lot of ground balls, and they have to find holes."

MINOR MOVES

Right-hander Andrew Moore got a promotion to Double-A Jackson after going 3-1 with a 1.65 ERA in nine starts at Hi-A Bakersfield. He allowed 36 hits in 54 2/3 innings while striking out 47 and walking 13.

Moore’s promotion came one day after the Mariners placed Jackson right-hander Dylan Unsworth on the seven-day disabled list. He exited his last start because of a muscle strain in his left leg.

The Mariners also promoted right-hander Lukas Schiraldi from Lo-A Clinton to Bakersfield, and right-hander Nick Neidert from extended spring training to Clinton.

Neidert, 19, was the club’s first pick, No. 40 overall, in last year’s draft.

Moore, 21, departs Bakersfield as the California League leader in ERA, walks and hits per inning (0.90) and opponents’ batting average (.188). He was picked as the league’s pitcher of the week for April 18-24.

The Mariners selected Moore with the 72th overall pick in the 2015 draft.

Schiraldi, 22, was 3-3 with a 3.68 ERA in nine starts at Clinton. He was a 15th-round pick in the 2014 draft.

Unsworth, 23, is 3-1 with a 1.18 ERA in eight starts for the Generals and was picked as the Southern League pitcher of the week for May 2-8. The Mariners signed Unsworth, a South African native, as a 16-year-old in 2009.

MINOR DETAILS

Lefty Ryan Yarbrough improved to 5-1 at Jackson by pitching seven shutout innings Monday in a 7-0 victory over Chattanooga (Twins). Yarbrough, 24, lowered his ERA to 2.49. He was a fourth-round pick in 2014.

LOOKING BACK

Tuesday marks the anniversary of two notable moments in Mariners’ history.

***It was 27 years ago — May 25, 1989 — that the Mariners acquired left-hander Randy Johnson along with pitchers Brian Holman and Gene Harris from Montreal for left-hander Mark Langston and pitcher Mike Campbell.

***It was 25 years ago — May 25, 1991 — that center fielder Ken Griffey Jr. made one of his more-memorable defensive plays when he ran down a drive by Texas’ Ruben Sierra at the Kingdome.

Griffey sprinted into right-center field and made the catch before crashing feet-first into the wall for the final out in the fifth inning. Sierra still went 4-for-6 that day in helping the Rangers to an 8-6 victory in 11 innings.

ON TAP

The Mariners and Athletics concluded their three-game series at 7:10 p.m. Wednesday at Safeco Field. Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma (2-4 with a 4.39 ERA) will face Oakland right-hander Zach Neal (0-0, 9.00).

The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest and heard on 710 ESPN.

The Athletics recalled Neal from Triple-A Nashville after placing Sonny Gray on the disabled list because of a strained right trapezius.

Neal, 27, made his major-league debut on May 11 with a three-inning relief appearance at Boston, but this will be his first big-league start. He was 5-1 with a 2.53 ERA in seven starts at Nashville.

The Mariners have an open date Thursday before continuing their homestand Friday with the start of a three-game weekend series against Minnesota.

Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners

DEFENSIVE SHIFTS

Team Runs saved

Seattle Mariners 15

Colorado Rockies 14

San Diego Padres 13

Tampa Bay Rays 12

Houston Astros 9

New York Mets 9

Chicago Cubs 7

Chicago White Sox 7

Baltimore Orioles 6

Boston Red Sox 6

Philadelphia Phillies 6

Toronto Blue Jays 6

Atlanta Braves 5

Washington Nationals 5

Cincinnati Reds 4

Miami Marlins 4

Arizona Diamondbacks 3

Milwaukee Brewers 3

San Francisco Giants 3

Cleveland Indians 2

Oakland Athletics 2

Detroit Tigers 1

Los Angeles Angels 1

Minnesota Twins 1

New York Yankees 1

Pittsburgh Pirates 1

Los Angeles Dodgers 0

Texas Rangers 0

St. Louis Cardinals -1

Kansas City Royals -2

Source: ESPN/Baseball Info Solutions

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