TORONTO — Shawn O’Malley’s role has changed — at least temporarily — but not his approach. He still views himself as a do-everything utilityman even as he replaces ailing Ketel Marte as the Mariners’ primary shortstop.
"It definitely does help to get regular at-bats," O’Malley admitted. "It’s not sporadic, and you’re not all over (the place). But, now, with (Luis) Sardinas here, you never know where I might be. I’ve still got to stay sharp everywhere else.
"I’ve got to get my work in, just like I did when I first got called up."
True enough. Sardinas started Sunday when the Mariners closed out a three-game weekend series against the Blue Jays, but O’Malley figures to get most of the playing time until Marte recovers from mononucleosis.
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"He just does what the game calls for," manager Scott Servais said. "Whether it’s to get the bat on the ball and beat out a single. Or to get a bunt down. It’s nice to have a guy who you trust to do those things."
O’Malley, 28, is batting .237 overall since his May 15 recall from Triple-A Tacoma, but he is batting .298 (14-for-47) in his last 21 games.
"When you’re seeing 95 (mph) every day, as opposed to every once in a while, it’s a little bit easier," he said. "When you’re not playing every day, you have to rely on the (pitching) machine. And the machine is not always accurate.
"So I think it helps out a little bit.
Defensive metrics say O’Malley has been solid at shortstop, which club officials once viewed as a concern. It was Sardinas’ defensive skills that weighed heavily in the decision to keep him, and not O’Malley, on the opening day roster.
But O’Malley rates at plus-1 in his 110 innings at shortstop in terms of runs saved above average.
"He’s done a nice job defensively," Servais said. "He’s handled the plays. And I feel good about it when he’s up there in the box that something good is going to happen. He’s a tough little nut. I like having him on our club."
Right-hander Taijuan Walker wasn’t pleased with his pre-game bullpen workout, but his concerns had nothing to do with his troublesome right foot.
"The foot feels good," he said, "but it’s a little frustrating because my timing is off on everything."
Walker hasn’t pitched since July 5 because of tendinitis in his right foot.
"I know," he said, "and I’ve got to realize that (contributes to a lack of sharpness). But my foot feels fine. Everything is good there. Now, it’s just a matter of getting back in sync with everything else."
Plans call for Walker to pitch a three-inning simulated game Wednesday in Pittsburgh before, barring any setbacks, departing on a minor-league rehab assignment.
A sore neck knocked outfielder Franklin Gutierrez out of Sunday’s lineup and led to a new-look batting order with Chris Iannetta batting second and serving as the designated hitter.
Servais cited Iannetta’s production against left-handed pitchers — a .273/.387/.420 slash — as a reason to have him bat second against Toronto lefty J.A. Happ.
Gutierrez’s ailment isn’t viewed as serious. He is expected to be ready for Tuesday’s game in Pittsburgh, when the Mariners face another left-hander in Francisco Liriano.
The Mariners are expected to make a roster move prior to Tuesday’s game in Pittsburgh to bolster their bench for five upcoming road games against National League opponents.
"It’s kind of nice to have the extra position player in a National League game," Servais said, "especially with the off-days around it. You’re not going to be taxing the pitching too much."
The Mariners play Tuesday and Wednesday at Pittsburgh. After an open date Thursday, they play three weekend games against the Cubs in Chicago.
Lefty Wade LeBlanc gained his first career save Saturday by pitching the final three innings in a 14-5 victory over the Blue Jays.
The Mariners’ last four saves covering three or more innings — where the potential tying run isn’t required to at least make it to the on-deck circle — belong to pitchers currently on the club:
Nathan Karns (July 2 vs. Baltimore); Tom Wilhelmsen (June 30, 2014 vs. Houston) and Hisashi Iwakuma (May 30, 2012 vs. Texas). Iwakuma pitched the first six innings in Saturday’s victory before being replaced by LeBlanc.
Double-A Jackson closer Dan Altavilla, like Edwin Diaz was a starter prior to this season. He was also a high draft pick: fifth round in 2014; Diaz was a third-rounder in 2012.
Altavilla, a 23-year-old right-hander, also shows promise in his new role. He lowered his ERA to 2.08 by working a scoreless ninth inning Saturday in a 2-1 victory over Chattanooga (Twins).
It was Altavilla’s 12th save to go along with a 6-2 record. He also has 51 strikeouts in 43 1/3 innings.
It was 25 years ago Monday — July 25, 1991 — that former Yankee Jay Buhner hit what, at the time, was the longest home run since a renovated Yankee Stadium opened in 1976.
It came in the second inning against New York starter Wade Taylor and traveled an estimated 479 feet "over the ambulance" beyond the wall in left-center field.
Buhner’s two-run homer opened the scoring in a 6-3 victory. Bill Krueger pitched the first six innings and got the victory.
The Mariners have an open date Monday before opening a two-game series at 4:05 p.m. Pacific time Tuesday at Pittsburgh.
Right-hander Felix Hernandez (4-4 with a 3.23 ERA) makes his second start since returning from a six-week stay on the disabled list. The Pirates plans to start lefty Francisco Liriano (6-9, 4.96).
The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest and heard on 710 ESPN.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners