SEATTLE -- The Mariners have been walking a tightrope with their thin catching crew all season, but they appear to have avoided further serious issues after Austin Nola was hit in the left wrist while trying to catch a 95 mph fastball from rookie reliever Yohan Ramirez in Friday’s 8-4 loss to the Rockies.
Nola was expecting a slider from the hard-throwing Rule 5 reliever, but instead got a fastball that caught him directly on the base of his thumb and wrist on his glove hand as he tried to react.
Manager Scott Servais said prior to Saturday’s rematch with the Rockies that X-rays didn’t show any structural damage to Nola’s hand and he could be available to return by Sunday’s series finale.
“It’s just puffy,” Servais said. “We got very lucky. Nothing was broken there. There’s just no reason to jam him in the lineup today. We’ll give him a day and try to calm that down a little bit. Hopefully, he’ll be available to start the game tomorrow.”
The Mariners are already without starting catcher Tom Murphy, who has been on the 10-day injured list since the start of the regular season with a broken bone in his left foot. Nola has filled in well in Murphy’s absence, both defensively and at the plate, as he’s hitting .324 with seven RBIs in 11 games and slugged his first home run Friday.
Nola missed three games in late July with a sore left knee and rookie Joseph Odom, who was activated from the alternate training site to help fill the void, started two games, but Nola has started seven of the eight games since returning.
Backup Joe Hudson has started four games this season, but is still learning the pitchers after missing much of Spring Training with an oblique injury and Summer Camp as a late arrival. Hudson is 1-for-11 with a walk, while Odom went 0-for-4 with a walk before being optioned back to the alternate training site.
Graveman still undergoing tests
Starting pitcher Kendall Graveman is still undergoing tests on his sore neck, and Servais said he expects the right-hander will remain sidelined for some time. Graveman said he’d had a recurring neck issue that cropped up again in his season debut in Houston, which then became more of a problem during his second outing Sunday against the A’s.
“He’s going to see another expert early next week to kind of get a final [decision] on which direction he’s going to go and what procedure he’ll need to have done,” Servais said. “He’s going to miss more than one start. It’s going to be some significant time. We don’t have a definite timetable, but I would not expect to see him back in our rotation any time soon.”
The 29-year-old missed most of the past two seasons following Tommy John surgery, but had thrown well for the Mariners in Cactus League play and Summer Camp. Lefty Nick Margevicius took his place in the rotation for Saturday’s start against the Rockies, and Servais has indicated the Mariners would like to remain in their six-man rotation going forward, despite Graveman’s absence.
Hirano progressing in Arizona
Veteran reliever Yoshihisa Hirano has thrown several bullpen sessions at the Mariners’ facility in Peoria, Ariz., and is close to joining the team’s alternate training site in Tacoma so he can begin facing hitters.
Hirano was expected to be one of Seattle’s primary late-inning relievers after signing a one-year, $1.6 million deal as a free agent after two seasons with the D-backs. But the 36-year-old missed almost all of Summer Camp after being sick with COVID-19.
“He’s progressing nicely,” Servais said. “He’s getting his arm strength up and throwing all his pitches off the mound. I don’t have a definite date, but he’s getting much closer to facing hitters.”