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Swarzak comes off IL, notches save vs. Angels

@gregjohnsmlb
April 2, 2019

SEATTLE -- For Anthony Swarzak, it wasn’t exactly a soft landing in his Mariners’ debut. But after coming off the injured list earlier in the day, the veteran right-hander struck out Albert Pujols and got Jonathan Lucroy to ground out to strand runners at the corners and save a 2-1

SEATTLE -- For Anthony Swarzak, it wasn’t exactly a soft landing in his Mariners’ debut. But after coming off the injured list earlier in the day, the veteran right-hander struck out Albert Pujols and got Jonathan Lucroy to ground out to strand runners at the corners and save a 2-1 victory for Marco Gonzales on Tuesday night.

“That’s about as tight as you can get,” Swarzak said. “As I’m working and getting close to coming back, you think of certain lineups in your division, and that’s the lineup you think about when you’re putting your work in. Because that’s a lineup that’s going to hurt you if you’re not where you need to be.”

But Swarzak is right where he wants to be now, as it turns out. After nine seasons in the Major Leagues with six different organizations, as well as part of a season in Korea, Swarzak has seen plenty of teams and plenty of clubhouses.

But the 33-year-old reliever isn’t taking his 10th season for granted. After being activated off the 10-day injured list, Swarzak sounded as excited as a rookie awaiting his MLB debut with a club that now has 13 newcomers on its 25-man roster.

“The team has such chemistry and a positive vibe going on here,” Swarzak said prior to Tuesday’s series finale with the Angels. “Everybody has energy. We all feed off each other, and pick each other up and talk smack to each other. It feels like we’ve all played together before.

“Here I am saying this and I haven’t even pitched in a game yet, and that goes to speak about what’s going on here and how close guys really are. Even for a guy that hasn’t pitched yet, I’m feeding off that. They’re bringing me in on jokes and conversations. That’s what it takes, and it starts with Dee [Gordon] and everybody else is feeding off that. I love it here. It’s great.”

Rookie right-hander David McKay was optioned back to Triple-A Tacoma to open a roster spot. McKay, who turned 24 on Sunday, was called up Saturday after closer Hunter Strickland was diagnosed with a strained right lat muscle that will sideline him for several months. But the rookie right-hander never appeared in a game and now will join Tacoma, which opens its season Thursday at Sacramento.

Swarzak missed most of Spring Training with a lingering issue in his right shoulder, but provides an experienced late-inning option for a rebuilding relief group that has been hit by a series of recent injuries.

The veteran had a big year in 2017 when he posted a 2.33 ERA with 91 strikeouts in 77 1/3 innings for the White Sox and Brewers, but was 0-2 with a 6.15 ERA in 29 outings for the Mets last year while dealing with a strained left oblique early in the season, and then the shoulder inflammation at the end of the year.

“My first two outings were [on] me, then I pulled my oblique and never really was the same,” Swarzak said. “Right when I was hitting my stride, I remember getting a save in Pittsburgh and striking out the side, and it was 97 [with my fastball] and I was, ‘OK, here we go.’ But that day I hurt my shoulder. I know this is as good as I’ve felt since then and it’ll continue getting better and stronger.”

The Mariners let him finish recovering from that shoulder impingement at the start of camp, but he returned to pitch in three Minor League games while the team was in Japan, and is ready now after throwing a bullpen session on Sunday in Seattle.

“I’m excited to face Major League hitters and see where I’m at,” said Swarzak, one of five players acquired from the Mets in the Robinson Cano/Edwin Diaz trade. “It was a weird spring, an interesting situation with the Japan trip and everything. But you have to roll with the punches and find a way.

“I keep telling myself, come mid-May or June, nobody is going to care what day in April that I started the season. I’m just trying to get my work in, stay healthy and get some results out there.”

More help on the way

Fellow right-hander Shawn Armstrong is also close to returning from a strained left oblique that landed him on the IL when the team got to Tokyo. Armstrong threw a bullpen session on Tuesday and now will join Tacoma in Sacramento.

Mariners manager Scott Servais said Armstrong will throw live batting practice for the Rainiers, and then likely a couple rehab games and rejoin the Mariners after they return from their upcoming road trip to Chicago and Kansas City.

Hard-throwing rookie Gerson Bautista is a little further behind as he works back from a strained pectoral muscle. Servais said Bautista had to slow down his return last week, but is back on track now and could be ready by the end of April if all goes well.

Sam Tuivailala, who underwent surgery to repair a ruptured Achilles tendon last season, is throwing off a mound now and is targeted for potentially a June return.

The club also acquired right-hander Connor Sadzeck from the Rangers on Monday, and he’s expected to join the team Thursday in Chicago when the Mariners open a seven-game road trip.

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.