Crawford, key cog for Mariners, lands on IL with oblique strain

April 25th, 2024

ARLINGTON -- was in the third round of batting practice on Wednesday evening at Globe Life Field, and after one awkward hack, he knew something in his right side was wrong.

“I instantly felt it just grab,” Crawford said. “And then I tried to take one more swing after that and knew something was up.”

Indeed, an MRI that Seattle’s shortstop underwent before Thursday’s series finale against the Rangers revealed a Grade 1 right oblique strain that landed him on the 10-day injured list.

In a corresponding move, infielder Leo Rivas was selected from Triple-A Tacoma, and to clear a 40-man roster spot for him, reliever Gregory Santos was transferred to the 60-day IL, as he isn’t expected back before that timeline.

Crawford hit the IL for the first time since June 2019, aside from a stint on the concussion IL last year, when he missed 10 games in August. He said he dealt with an oblique injury in his Minors career but that it’s been too long to remember. Oblique strains are typically a matter of multiple weeks, though Mariners manager Scott Servais didn’t want to put a timeline on it.

“All of them hurt. All of them suck,” Crawford said. “It's just that muscle [is involved] in anything you do, even walking or just coughing or sneezing, it's really sore. ... We're going to go get a game plan and see what the next week or two holds.”

Crawford joins outfielder Dominic Canzone among Mariners primary players on the shelf, but his presence there looms larger given that he’s Seattle’s leadoff man, plays a premium position, has played in more games than any of his teammates the past four years and is the club’s unofficial team captain -- even considering that he’s off to a slow start.

After a career year in 2023, Crawford is slashing .198/.296/.302 (.598 OPS) with two homers, one triple, one double, nine RBIs, an 18.4% strikeout rate and an 11.2% walk rate. He’s been worth 84 wRC+ (league average is 100) and 0.3 wins above replacement, per FanGraphs. And before Wednesday, he had missed only one game -- a designed off-day on April 17.

“It's really frustrating, especially each year you find new ways to take care of your body,” Crawford said. “And this year, my preparation has been at its best, being ready to play every day. And to just have a nagging injury like this and just having it from just taking BP, it sucks.”

In his stead, Dylan Moore will see Seattle’s most action at shortstop. Rivas, a nine-year Minor League journeyman, will be making his MLB debut when he appears in a game and will serve as a backup utility infielder. He had an .884 OPS in 18 games at Tacoma.

Crawford’s leadoff spot, however, will be more in flux based on matchups. Josh Rojas hit first on Wednesday against righty Jon Gray and opened with a triple, and Julio Rodríguez was there on Thursday, with Texas starting lefty Andrew Heaney.

Rojas has been the Mariners’ most pleasant surprise in ‘24, slashing .315/.383/.463 (.846 OPS) entering Thursday while playing plus defense at third base. Rodríguez, who’s begun heating up, had 472 plate appearances of leadoff experience before the series finale against Texas. Moore could see time there, too.

“We'll keep mixing and matching it,” Servais said. “Again, the guys that are going the best with the bat, I like to have those guys at the top of the lineup. Obviously, you want them to get the extra at-bat as the game goes along. I think Josh Rojas has played great. He's done an awesome job defensively. He's had really good at-bats. He puts the bat on the ball and he finds holes.”