SAN DIEGO — Celebration can come at a cost.
Mariners ace Felix Hernandez is heading to the 15-day disabled list after suffering a strained right calf Tuesday as he leapt from the bench to celebrate one of the club’s five home runs in a 16-4 victory over San Diego at Safeco Field.
The club responded by recalling lefty James Paxton from Triple-A Tacoma, after scratching him from a scheduled Tuesday start, in order to replace Hernandez in the rotation for Wednesday’s game against the Padres at Petco Park.
Hernandez’s injury is not believed to be serious, but he remained Tuesday night in Seattle — while the rest of the club flew to San Diego — in order to undergo an examination Wednesday by Dr. Edward Khalfayan, the club’s medical director.
Club officials had hoped Hernandez might only need to be pushed back a few days before reclaiming his spot in the rotation. Khalfayan’s examination prompted the Mariners to opt for caution by placing Hernandez on the disabled list.
"Not perfect," general manager Jerry Dipoto said, "but it’s about as good as we could’ve hoped for. We’re hopeful this is just a two-week hiatus."
The Mariners backdated the injury to May 28, one day after Hernandez’s last appearance. Effectively, that means he will only miss two starts before he is eligible to return June 12 for a projected start against Texas at Safeco Field.
"He’s sore today," manager Scott Servais said. "It’s bothering him a little bit walking around. He’ll be down and not do a whole lot the next couple of days. But he’ll keep his arm activated so he doesn’t lose much time there."
Hernandez, 30, was 4-4 with a 2.86 ERA in 10 starts.
"Hopefully, he’ll have a little left in his tank at the end of the year," Servais said, "because he’s getting a little breather now. It has nothing to do with his arm. It’s all related to his calf.
"It’s important. It’s his push-off leg, and we all know his delivery and how much torque he puts on that leg. We’ve got to be careful that he’s 100 percent when he comes back."
The Mariners moved to line up Paxton to start Wednesday’s game before determining Hernandez required time on the disabled list. Doing so required a corresponding space-clearing move on the 25-man roster.
Had Hernandez avoided the disabled list, the Mariners would made a different move — one that club officials did not specify.
Paxton, 27, returns after going 4-3 with a 3.97 ERA in 10 starts at Tacoma. He yielded no earned runs in six innings in his last start, May 26 at Round Rock (Rangers), but gave up 11 earned runs in 9 2/3 innings over his two previous starts.
"The reports have been good," Servais said. "He’s made a couple of mechanical adjustments with his release point that feels very natural. He’s always thrown the ball hard, but the velocity has been up the last couple of outings."
While Paxton was 12-8 with a 3.16 ERA in 30 big-league starts over the three previous years, he spent extended periods on the disabled list for a series of various injuries. He then lost his spot in the rotation this spring to Nathan Karns.
A K-SWAG MAY
The goal now for Kyle Seager is to carry his torrid May into June.
After a disappointing April, Seager exploded last month and now has his each of his slash numbers on a career-record pace at .274/.353/.521 for his batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage.
"When your batting average is low enough," Seager deflected, "it’s not hard to gain that much. I worked a lot with Edgar (Martinez). We were all watching the video, and we found some stuff.
"We saw some things I had been doing wrong, that I had been doing better in the past."
Seager batted .361 in 28 May games with 10 doubles, five homers and 20 RBIs. He also generated a 2.0 wins above replacement rating, which ranked second in May among American League players.
Only Boston outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr., who had a 29-game hitting streak, graded out higher (at 2.3).
"I looked up (Tuesday) and saw (Seager) hitting .274," manager Scott Servias said. "I was thinking, `Oh, my gosh. The first of May, I think he was hitting .174 or .147.’ Something like that. (Actually, it was .159; but the point stands.)
"It says a lot for what he’s done the last 25-30 games."
A second straight winning month boosted the Mariners’ postseason chances in the latest odds from www.Bovada.lv, an online gaming site.
The Mariners now rate as a 16/1 shot to win the World Series after being a 22/1 bet on May 3. Only seven clubs are better: Cubs (15/4), Red Sox and Giants (8/1), Nationals (10-1), New York Mets and Texas (12/1) and Kansas City (14/1).
Bovada also pegs the Mariners as a 7/1 shot to the win American League pennant and a 7/5 shot to win the AL West. That’s down from 14/1 and 2/1 on May 3.
Second baseman Robinson Cano is also now a better bet to be the AL’s Most Valuable Player at 7/1 odds. Only two players rate better: Baltimore shortstop Manny Machado and Los Angeles outfielder Mike Trout are each 3/1.
Cano rated a 12/1 shot on May 3, which trailed six other players.
Double-A Jackson outfielder Tyler O’Neill just keeps getting hotter. He had four more hits Tuesday in a 10-5 victory at Tennessee (Cubs). That raised O’Neill’s average to .328, which ranks third in the Southern League.
O’Neill, 20, also leads the league with 40 RBIs in his 49 games and is tied for second with nine homers.
It was 29 years ago Thursday — June 2, 1987 — that the Mariners selected outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. of Moeller High School in Cincinnati with the first overall pick in the draft.
Griffey later agreed to a $160,000 bonus and reported to Short-A Bellingham in the Northwest League. He batted .313 with 14 homers and 40 RBIs in 54 games.
It was six years ago Thursday — June 2, 2010 — that Griffey announced his retirement after 22 big-league seasons.
It is 52 days from Thursday — July 24, 2016 — that Griffey will become the first player inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., primarily because of his accomplishments while playing for the Mariners.
LOOKING BACK II
It was 26 years ago Thursday — June 2, 1990 — that Randy Johnson threw the first no-hitter in franchise history in a 2-0 victory over Detroit at the Kingdome. He struck out eight and walked six while throwing 138 pitches.
Center fielder Leonys Martin took batting practice again Wednesday and, barring any setback, will start running this weekend as the next test in his recovery from a strained left hamstring…the Mariners entered June as the only team to have three players with at least 10 homers and 30 RBIs: Robinson Cano (15, 45), Nelson Cruz (10, 35) and Kyle Seager (10, 33)….the Mariners also entered June at 30-21. It was the first time they had 30 victories prior to June since they were 36-18 in 2003…the Mariners had 13 two-out RBIs in Tuesday’s victory. That boosted their season total to 101. Only Boston (111) and St. Louis (105) had more prior to Wednesday’s games.
The Mariners and Padres conclude their four-game, home-and-home series at 6:10 p.m. Thursday at Petco Park in San Diego.
Lefty Wade Miley (5-2 with a 4.95 ERA) will start against San Diego right-hander Colin Rea (3-2 and 4.47). The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest and heard on 710 ESPN.
The Mariners then head to Texas for a three-game weekend series against the Rangers.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners