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Mariners notebook: Freeman recalled to fill in for ailing Seager

The Mariners recalled infielder Mike Freeman from Triple-A Tacoma to fill the gap created when third baseman Kyle Seager suffered a bruised right foot.
The Mariners recalled infielder Mike Freeman from Triple-A Tacoma to fill the gap created when third baseman Kyle Seager suffered a bruised right foot. AP

Kyle Seager’s bruised right foot isn’t expected to force him to the disabled list, but it prompted the Mariners to make an additional round of roster moves prior to Thursday’s series opener against the White Sox.

The Mariners recalled infielder Mike Freeman from Triple-A Tacoma to bridge the gap in Seager’s availability in addition to their planned move to activate lefty James Paxton from the disabled list.

Plans called for Paxton to start Thursday against the White Sox at soon-to-be-renamed U.S. Cellular Field.

To clear space for Freeman and Paxton, the Mariners optioned right-handed reliever Tony Zych to Tacoma and designated left-hander Wade LeBlanc for assignment. Technically, Zych was optioned after Wednesday’s loss to the Yankees.

The move to jettison LeBlanc leaves lefty swingman Ariel Miranda as the starter for Saturday’s game against the White Sox.

Seager suffered the injury Tuesday night when he fouled a ball off his foot in a 5-1 loss to the New York Yankees at Safeco Field. X-rays on Wednesday revealed nothing more than a deep bruise, but Seager was noticeably limping.

"He will not be in there tonight," manager Scott Servais said. "Optimistically, fingers crossed, I’m hoping he can be available (Friday). I’d say we’re 50-50 on that right now, too. He’s pretty sore."

Losing Seager strips the Mariners of one of their top offensive weapons. He is batting .286 with 24 homers and leads the club with 83 RBIs.

Freeman, 29, was 2-for-6 over two games in a brief call-up earlier in the month. He is batting .290 at Tacoma in 17 games since being acquired by the Mariners in an Aug. 1 waiver claim from Arizona.

The series of moves leaves the Mariners with a six-man bullpen — one less than normal. They will likely return to seven relievers once Seager returns to full availability.

"We’re going light for a few days in the bullpen," Servais acknowledged, "but if something happened with an infielder, we wouldn’t have someone to put in there. Freeman can run all over."

LeBlanc, 32, was 3-0 with a 4.50 ERA in 11 games, including eight starts, since being acquired from Toronto in a June 21 trade for a player to be named later or cash.

"The job he did for us over a period of time was just awesome," Servais said. "It was really tough having that conversation with him (on Wednesday). I think he really felt a part of things here.

"My fingers are crossed that he doesn’t claimed, but everybody is looking for pitching this time of year."

Zych, 26, made two appearances, allowing one run in 1 2/3 innings, since being activated Tuesday from the 60-day disabled list. Those were his first outings since being diagnosed with tendinitis in his rotator cuff.

Paxton is returning to the rotation for the first time since being hit in the elbow by a line drive on Aug. 7. He pitched three scoreless innings last Saturday in a rehab start for Tacoma. He is 4-5 with a 3.53 ERA in 13 big-league starts.

OPTION RULES

The Mariners’ success this season in the minors could throw a kink into their desired roster moves when the calendar turns to September.

Some background: All clubs are permitted to expand their active major-league roster from 25 to 40 players on Sept. 1, but the rules governing the recall of an optioned player remain in force.

Specifically, a player on the 40-man roster who is optioned to the minors can’t be recalled for 10 days unless he replaces a player who is placed on the disabled list.

That means, for example, that Zych, who was optioned after Wednesday’s game, can’t be recalled until Sept. 4 (unless he replaces a DL player).

There is one other exception: An optioned player can be recalled prior to 10 days if his minor-league team has completed its season. Minor-league seasons generally end on Labor Day.

Accordingly, many clubs at this time of the year option players to affiliates that won’t participate in postseason. Or if the player they might want to promote is on a postseason-bound club, they reassign him to one that isn’t going to postseason.

But the season-over recall provision includes postseason — and that’s the rub for the Mariners, who are likely to have all seven of their affiliates in postseason.

MINOR DETAILS

Three Short-A Everett pitchers combined Wednesday on a one-hitter in a 1-0 victory at Eugene (Cubs).

Brandon Miller worked five hitless innings; Reggie McClain gave up one hit, a single, in three innings; and Marvin Gorgas worked around one-out walk in the ninth to complete the shutout.

The only run scored on Jose Leal’s two-out RBI single in the fourth inning.

The AquaSox won four of five in the series between the Northwest League’s two division leaders. Everett holds a 10-game lead in the North Division with 11 games remaining.

MINOR AWARDS

Peoria outfielder Ismael Pena is the latest Mariners prospect to be selected as the Canadian Baseball Network minor-league player of the week after going 10-for-15 over five games in the Arizona Rookie League.

There are 147 Canadians playing in the minors.

Pena, 20, has a .275/.319/.370 overall slash (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage) through 38 games at Peoria. Signed in 2013 by Arizona, he joined the Mariners in spring training.

Previous CBN award winners: Peoria outfielder Gareth Morgan, Double-A Jackson outfielder Tyler O’Neill and Triple-A Tacoma pitcher James Paxton.

LOOKING BACK

It was 12 years ago Friday — Aug. 26, 2004 — that Ichiro Suzuki became the first player in history to reach 200 hits in each of his first four seasons.

Suzuki reached the milestone with a home run in the ninth inning of a 7-3 loss to Kansas City at Safeco Field. He finished the season with 262 hits, which remains a major-league record.

SHORT HOPS

Nelson Cruz returned to the lineup after exiting Wednesday’s game because of back spasms…the Mariners, though Wednesday, were 40-30 when Nori Aoki bats leadoff. They were 27-29 when someone else bats first…the Mariners have had four hits by a player this season on seven occasions. Ketel Marte and Adam Lind has each done it twice…the Mariners, prior to Thursday, had 23-18 records in the first and second games of a series. They were 19-18 in the third game, and 2-5 in the fourth game.

ON TAP

The Mariners and White Sox continue their four-game series at 5:10 p.m. Pacific time Friday with marquee pitching match-up at U.S. Cellular Field.

Right-hander Felix Hernandez (8-4 with 3.26 ERA) will face Chicago lefty Chris Sale (15-6, 3.15). The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest and heard on the Mariners Radio Network, which includes 710 ESPN.

Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners

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