SEATTLE — For the first time since May 27, the Mariners have a Happy Felix Day to declare. And, of course, the King’s Court will be in session at 12:40 p.m. Wednesday when the Mariners conclude their series against the White Sox.
Ace right-hander Felix Hernandez will be officially activated prior to the game from the disabled list after the Mariners make a corresponding space-clearing roster move.
"I’m ready, man," Hernandez said. "I was going crazy (in the early) weeks when I wasn’t with the team (on the road). It was the worst time of my career. But I’m good now. I’m ready to go."
Hernandez was diagnosed with a strained right calf muscle following his May 27 start against the Twins. Coincidence or not, the Mariners were 28-19 through Hernandez’s last start and held a 1 1/2-game lead atop the division standings.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
They entered Tuesday’s game against Chicago at 47-46 and trailing first-place Texas by 7 1/2 games. Hernandez was 4-4 with a 2.86 ERA in 10 starts prior to his injury.
It’s no surprise, but manager Scott Servais said Hernandez will be monitored closer than usual Wednesday in his first appearance in 54 days.
"We’ll judge how the ball is coming out of his hand," Servais said, "and how he’s feeling, as we go along. I’d love to get six innings out of him, but we’ll see how the command is and how he’s moving through the game."
Servais also confirmed plans to keep Hernandez on a regular five-day cycle as the Mariners move through a stretch that includes three open dates in an eight-day span prior to the end of the month.
"We could skip some (other) guys," Servais said, "but I would like to keep Felix on a normal rotation with four days off (between starts). If you do that, you’ll probably do skip a guy here or there."
O’MALLEY AT SHORT
Utilityman Shawn O’Malley started at shortstop for the third time in four games when the Mariners chose to give Ketel Marte another day to recover from what is being characterized as a viral infection.
"It’s better than we originally thought," Servais said. "He had a high fever (Monday) night, and it’s come down a little bit today. We’ve got to get him 100 percent. It’s nothing to do with the ankle. He’s just under the weather."
Marte suffered a sprained right ankle Friday against Houston on a slide at third base, which forced his removal from the game and kept him on the bench Saturday. But he played all nine innings in Sunday’s loss to the Astros.
The viral infection surfaced prior to Monday’s series opener against the White Sox and effectively leaves the Mariners without a backup infielder. Not counting Marte, their bench Tuesday consisted of Jesus Sucre, Adam Lind and Seth Smith.
Servais acknowledged: "Any longer than (Tuesday) would not be comfortable (without a backup infielder). I’m very hopeful that Marte can get in the lineup (Wednesday)."
Point to note: The Mariners, through Monday, were 7-0 when O’Malley started at shortstop.
TEST FOR FURBUSH
Lefty reliever Charlie Furbush is scheduled to pitch Wednesday and Thursday at Triple-A Tacoma in what amounts to the next test in his recovery from biceps tendinitis in his shoulder, which has sidelined him for more than a year.
The Mariners want to see whether Furbush can pitch on back-to-back games without any decline in effectiveness — or suffering any further setbacks in his long recovery program.
Furbush, 30, has made four appearances since beginning his rehab assignment July 8 with the first of two starting assignments at Short-A Everett. His last two appearances, July 14 and July 16, were in relief at Tacoma.
Minor-league rehab assignments can last a maximum of 30 days for pitchers.
Telecasts of Mariners’ games by Root Sports Northwest rank as the No. 1 prime-time program in their home market since the start of the season, according to Forbes magazine.
Nine other clubs also rank No. 1 in their market.
Forbes reports the Mariners are drawing a 6.22 rating for prime-time games, which translates to an average of 110,000 households per game.
In terms of ratings, the Mariners rank seventh among the 30 clubs. Kansas City is first with a 13.26 rating, followed by St. Louis at 8.14 and Pittsburgh at 7.77.
In terms of households, the Mariners rank ninth. The New York Mets lead at 228,000, followed by the New York Yankees at 188,000 and the Chicago Cubs at 167,000.
Oakland ranks last in ratings at 0.88 and in households at 22,000.
Adam Lind is only the second player in major-league history to hit two walk-off homers with his club trailing by two runs in the same year, according to the Elias Sports Bureau
The other is Boston designated hitter David Ortiz in 2006.
Lind hit a three-run clincher Monday against White Sox closer David Robertson, which capped a four-run ninth inning in a 4-3 victory. Lind also hit a three-run homer on June 24 against St. Louis closer Trevor Rosenthal in a 4-3 victory.
Ortiz’s two three-run walk-offs in 2006: June 11 against Akinori Otsuka in a 5-4 victory over Texas; and July 31 against Roberto Hernandez in a 9-8 victory over Cleveland.
Nelson Cruz is the Mariners’ recipient this year for the Heart and Hustle Award, which is presented by the Major League Players Alumni Association.
The award seeks to honor one player from each club every year "who demonstrate a passion for the game of baseball and best embody the values, spirit and traditions of the game."
The overall winner will be announced Nov. 15 in New York. No Mariner has ever won the award, which dates to 2005.
IN A PINCH
Adam Lind provided the Mariners with their second pinch-hit, walk-off homer of the season in Monday’s victory. Dae-Ho Lee had the other one on April 13 in a 4-2 victory over Texas in 10 innings.
The Mariners had only two walk-off pinch homers in their history prior to this season: Ken Phelps on Sept. 3, 1986 against Detroit; and Kendrys Morales on June 23, 2013 vs. Oakland.
The Mariners, through Monday, lead the American League with a .280 average (23-for-82) from their pinch-hitters. They also lead in hits, doubles (four), extra-base hits (seven) and RBIs (14). Their three homers are tied for the AL lead.
It was two years ago Wednesday — July 20, 2014 — that the Mariners suffered a 6-5 walk-off loss to the Angels after closer Fernando Rodney performed his celebratory arrow-shoot pantomime when he escaped a jam in the eighth inning.
Rodney mistakenly believed the game was over.
Mike Trout and Albert Pujols mimicked Rodney’s gesture when Trout scored the tying run on a Pujols double. Grant Green won the game with a two-out single up the middle.
The Mariners and White Sox conclude their three-game series at 12:40 p.m. Wednesday at Safeco Field. Right-hander Felix Hernandez (4-4 with a 2.86 ERA) will face Chicago right-hander Miguel Gonzalez (2-5, 5.40).
The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest and heard on 710 ESPN.
The Mariners have an open date Thursday before starting a three-city, eight-game trip Friday with the first of three weekend games at Toronto. They also play two games at Pittsburgh and three against the Cubs in Chicago.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners