Hirano clears protocols, rejoins Mariners

July 19th, 2020

SEATTLE -- remains on the injured list, but the veteran reliever has finally been cleared to join the Mariners and the club now has all 60 of its invited players in camp.

Hirano told the Japan Times and other Japanese reporters that he tested positive for COVID-19 on June 25 and was running a 102-degree fever and unable to train for about two weeks. He tested negative for the first time on July 6 and, having cleared the MLB protocols, joined camp on Saturday.

MLB has instituted a COVID-19 list this season, though clubs will not announce which players are placed on it due to privacy laws regarding individuals’ health. Players may address their status if they wish, though they are not required to do so.

The Mariners announced that three unnamed players failed their initial COVID-19 tests before camp opened, but Hirano is the first to acknowledge he has tested positive. Hirano is the only Mariners player to be placed on the injured list for an unspecified reason. Three other players -- Mallex Smith, Dylan Moore and Joe Hudson -- were just cleared to join camp in the past week, but no reason has been given for their late arrivals.

There is no time frame on the COVID-19 injured list, so Hirano could be activated at any time, but manager Scott Servais indicated Sunday that the 36-year-old will need time to build his arm back up.

“He got in camp yesterday, he’ll start throwing some bullpens and we’ll see where he’s at arm strength-wise,” Servais said. “We’ll wait and see. There’s a very short window until we open up in Houston [on Friday], so is he going to be ready for that? I don’t know. That may be a stretch.

“But certainly we want to get him out there and in some [intrasquad] games and competition as quick as possible. It’s great that he’s in camp. He’s happy to be here. Hopefully, we can ramp him up as quick as possible.”

Hirano posted a 3.47 ERA in 137 games for the D-backs over the previous two seasons, then signed a one-year, $1.6 million deal with Seattle as a free agent in January. The Mariners expected Hirano, who worked as a closer for six years with the Orix Blue Wave in Japan before coming to MLB in 2018, to be one of their late-inning relievers, but it’ll take some time now for him to show he’s ready to jump back into that mix.

Top pitching prospect Gilbert looking the part
While outfielder Jarred Kelenic, the Mariners’ No. 1 prospect, has garnered considerable attention for his strong showing in Summer Camp, top pitching prospect has been just as impressive on the mound.

Gilbert, the Mariners’ No. 3 prospect, threw two scoreless innings in Saturday’s intrasquad game and has seven strikeouts and no walks in 3 2/3 innings in two appearances. With a mid-90s fastball and an advanced array of offspeed offerings, the 2018 first-round Draft pick continues to open eyes.

He came from down 3-0 in the count against Kelenic on Saturday to strike the 21-year-old out, finishing him with a nasty 3-2 slider.

“Gilbert has looked great,” Servais said. “He looked great in our first Spring Training down in Arizona and he’s picked it back up when we got here. All four pitches are there. He’s not afraid to throw them in any counts. The thing with Logan from the get-go is he’s been very confident and very aggressive. He’s going right after these guys with good stuff in the strike zone. He’s got a ton of upside.”

Gilbert doesn’t figure in the Mariners’ initial 30-man roster plans, but like Kelenic appears close to being Major League ready. The outfielder will get as much as possible out of the extra-player pool workouts in Tacoma in the next two months and be available if called.

Short takes from T-Mobile Park
• After missing two days, outfielder Jake Fraley was back at camp on Sunday. Servais said the young outfielder had been dealing with the stomach flu.

• ESPN 710 Seattle radio will broadcast the final three intrasquad games on Monday through Wednesday, while ROOT TV will make its first broadcast on Wednesday. All three of those contests start at 6:10 p.m. PT. The Monday and Tuesday games will be streamed live on the Mariners' YouTube channel.

Monday’s game is slated for three innings, Tuesday is expected to go four innings and the Wednesday finale will be nine innings as the club gears up for Friday’s 6:10 p.m. Opening Day game in Houston.