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LeBlanc (oblique) optimistic, awaiting MRI results

Mariners left-hander exited Friday's game in 5th inning
@gregjohnsmlb
April 13, 2019

SEATTLE -- Wade LeBlanc was sitting at the chair in front of his locker, feet up on the plush gray ottoman that teammate Mike Leake bought for every Mariners player in their home clubhouse at T-Mobile Park this week. Life looked good for the 34-year-old, but things aren’t always as

SEATTLE -- Wade LeBlanc was sitting at the chair in front of his locker, feet up on the plush gray ottoman that teammate Mike Leake bought for every Mariners player in their home clubhouse at T-Mobile Park this week.

Life looked good for the 34-year-old, but things aren’t always as easy as LeBlanc makes them appear. As he chatted with reporters, the veteran left-hander was awaiting word from the doctors on the severity of the strained left oblique muscle that knocked him out of Friday’s loss to the Astros in the fifth inning.

“It feels about the same today,” LeBlanc said as he awaited results from his MRI test. “I don’t think it’s going to be major. I think it’ll be a minor Grade 1, if I had to put money on it. Which is good. It’s better than a lot of alternatives.”

Even a minor oblique strain can keep a pitcher out 4-6 weeks, however, and LeBlanc will definitely be going on the injured list as soon as the Mariners bring up a replacement.

“I don’t think we’ll have anybody new in today,” manager Scott Servais said prior to Saturday’s game. “We’ll wait and see. There are a lot of moving parts right now.”

Servais said LeBlanc’s injury won’t affect the team’s plan to limit Yusei Kikuchi to a one-inning start about once every month to control his workload during his first season in MLB. Kikuchi’s first abbreviated start likely won’t come until sometime toward the end of April.

In the meantime, the Mariners will bring in someone to fill LeBlanc’s spot, which is due up again Wednesday afternoon against the Indians, before Seattle hits the road again.

LeBlanc is 11-5 with a 3.79 ERA in 178 innings over 35 games (30 starts) since re-signing with Seattle last year. The 11-year veteran has been a journeyman most of his career, but he finally found some longer security with a unique deal last year that pays him $2 million this season, with a $5 million team option for each of the next three years that becomes guaranteed if he pitches 160 innings the previous year.

So, staying healthy is beneficial both to LeBlanc and the team, which has never been much of an issue for him in the past.

“I’ve never pulled a muscle in my life,” LeBlanc said. “I’ve never pulled anything, never tore anything, never broke anything. There’s not a lot of torque going on [in his easy delivery].”

LeBlanc doesn’t blow hitters away with heat, but he's the classic crafty lefty in the Jamie Moyer mold, mixing speeds and locating his various pitches with precision.

“When you look at Wade on video or whatever and are trying to game plan, I think most guys would think this guy shouldn’t be a problem,” Servais said. “'I should be able to square it up and have really good at-bats.' Then, he’s the guy that throws an 0-for-3 or 0-for-4 on you and you walk back wondering how you didn’t get a hit.”

LeBlanc won his first two starts and held a 3-2 lead on the Astros with two outs in the fifth when he felt something in his side on his 91st pitch. He tried one more pitch and couldn’t finish his extension as the intended changeup sailed high and wide of the plate.

“It just grabbed right before release, so when something does that, your brain says, ‘Stop,'" LeBlanc said. “I don’t even know what a pulled muscle is supposed to feel like, so I don’t know how to explain what it felt like other than the word ‘strange.’ It just didn’t feel right.”

Now, the only questions are how long LeBlanc will be out and who will take his place. He says he won’t rush back before he’s ready, but he doesn’t expect to be sitting with his feet up for long.

“I’ll make sure I’m healthy,” LeBlanc said, “but I don’t anticipate it taking too long.”

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