DETROIT — General manager Jerry Dipoto opted for a familiar face late Tuesday in swinging a deal to obtain a replacement for ailing Taijuan Walker in the Mariners’ rotation.
The Mariners acquired veteran left-hander Wade LeBlanc from Toronto for cash or a player to be named later. LeBlanc is expected to join the Mariners in time to start Friday’s series opener against the St. Louis Cardinals at Safeco Field.
"We felt we had some in-house candidates," Dipoto said. "But in this particular case, we did not have a lefty. He was obtainable because he had a contract out, and we were able to work something out with the Blue Jays."
LeBlanc, 31, is 7-2 with a 1.71 ERA in 14 starts for Triple-A Buffalo.
Dipoto said the Mariners had a strong preference to find a left-hander to face the Cardinals and, in LeBlanc, he got one that he knew from their time with the Los Angeles Angels.
LeBlanc made 10 appearances, including three starts for the Angels in 2014.
"Wade is not going to overpower you," Dipoto said. "He is 85-90 miles an hour. Mostly 87-88. But he’s got what is sometimes a double-plus change-up. He’s got a little cutter. I’d say 75 percent of his pitches are going to be cutters or change-ups.
"He’s 31 years old. He’s been out there before. He knows the routine. He might not pitch well, but he won’t go out there and panic."
Adding LeBlanc will require a corresponding move by the Mariners to clear space on the 40-man and 25-man rosters.
The Mariners made the trade shortly after learning Walker will not be able to make his scheduled start Friday because of inflammation in the tendon that attaches the calf muscle to the bones on the inside of the right foot.
The ailment forced Walker to make early exits in each of his last two starts, but the Mariners are confident he can avoid time on the disabled list. They expect him to rejoin the rotation at some point early next week.
LeBlanc is 21-33 with a 4.47 in 107 big-league games, including 71 starts, over parts of seven seasons with five clubs. He pitched last season for the Seibu in Japan’s Pacific League before signing a minor-league deal with the Blue Jays.
UPDATES ON AILING STARTERS
Manager Scott Servais offered some positive news on the Mariners’ injury-depleted rotation:
***Right-hander Taijuan Walker experienced immediate improvement in his sore right foot after getting an injection to eliminate a calcium deposit and should be able to return to the rotation within a week.
Walker is battling posterior tibial tendinitis — inflammation in the tendon that attaches the calf muscle to the bones on the inside of the foot. The ailment forced him to make early exits in his last two starts.
***Right-hander Felix Hernandez is no longer in a walking boot in his recovery from a strained right calf muscle, which forced him to the disabled list after a May 27 start against Minnesota.
"`Much better’ is what he shot back to me today (in a text)," Servais said. "He is throwing. He threw (Tuesday) out to 75 feet for about seven or eight minutes."
Hernandez isn’t expected to rejoin the rotation until mid-July.
SLUMPING CRUZ RESTED
Designated hitter Nelson Cruz wasn’t in the starting lineup Wednesday for just the second time in 72 games. The day off comes with Cruz mired in a 3-for-28 slump over the last seven games.
"The mental break is way more important than the physical break," Servais said. "You sit down and, all of a sudden, it doesn’t look so hard to get a hit. You’re sitting on the bench, watching other guys do it. You just catch your breath."
First baseman Dae-Ho Lee replaced Cruz as the clean-up hitter. Third baseman Kyle Seager filled that role on May 8 in Houston — the only other game when Cruz wasn’t in the starting lineup.
"He’s not going to play every game all year," Servais said. "We gave him a day (off) early in the year, and we’ll give him a day now. We’ll probably have Robby (Cano) be the DH (on Thursday)."
Several of organization’s minor-league players took part Tuesday in all-star games. Here’s a breakdown:
***Double-A Southern League: Jackson center fielder Guillermo Heredia was 1-for-4, and right fielder Tyler O’Neill was 0-for-2 with a walk and a hit-by-pitch. Three pitchers made scoreless appearances: Brett Ash (one inning), Ryan Yarbrough (two-thirds of an inning) and Dan Altavilla (two-thirds of an inning).
***Hi-A California League (vs. Carolina League): Bakersfield designated hitter Kyle Petty was 0-for-3 with a walk; and pitcher Tyler Herb pitched one scoreless innings.
***Lo-A Midwest League: Clinton first baseman Dalton Kelly was 1-for-3 with an RBI double, and third baseman Logan Taylor was 1-for-2; and pitcher Darin Gilles suffered a blown save and a loss when he gave up two runs and three hits in two-third of an inning.
Thursday is a notable day in Mariners’ history.
***It was 23 years ago — June 23, 1993 — that Jay Buhner became the first player in franchise history to hit for the cycle when he did so in an 8-7 walk-off victory over Oakland in 14 innings at the Kingdome.
***It was eight years ago — June 23, 2008 — the Felix Hernandez became the first American League pitcher to hit a grand slam in interleague play. He connected against lefty Johan Santana in a 5-2 victory over the Mets in New York.
***It was seven years ago — June 23, 2009 — that Ken Griffey Jr. hit the 5,000th home run in franchise history when he went deep against Chad Gaudin in a 9-7 loss to San Diego at Safeco Field.
Of the Mariners’ first 5,000 homers, 1,892 were hit in the Kingdome, 735 at Safeco Field and 2,373 on the road. The Mariners entered Wednesday’s game in Detroit with 6,081 homers in franchise history.
The Mariners, entering Wednesday, had lost four straight games despite holding the lead in each game. In the three of those games, they held multi-run leads…the Mariners, through Thursday, led the majors with 145 two-out RBIs…Robinson Cano’s double in Tuesday’s game was the 463rd of his career, which pulled him into a tie with Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson for 93rd-place on MLB’s all-time list.
The Mariners and Tigers complete their four-game series at 10:08 a.m. Pacific time Thursday at Comerica Park. Right-hander Adrian Sampson (0-1 with a 7.71 ERA) will start against Detroit lefty Daniel Norris (0-0, 0.00).
The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest and heard on 710 ESPN.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners