Paxton set to return; Gonzales still uncertain

Mariners could use six-man rotation when they're back to full strength

August 31st, 2018
Seattle Mariners starting pitcher James Paxton throws to a Houston Astros batter during the first inning of a baseball game Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)David J. Phillip/AP

OAKLAND -- threw an aggressive session of flat-ground catch on Thursday and pronounced himself fully ready to come off the 10-day disabled list for Saturday's start against the A's. But the Mariners are still waiting to see how progresses as they look to get their rotation squared away for the stretch run.

Mariners manager Scott Servais said the club could go with a six-man rotation over the final month if the starting group gets healthy, with Gonzales the last question mark as he works back from a muscle strain in his neck that landed him on the DL on Monday.

"We've talked about it," Servais said of a six-man rotation. "We've run our starting pitching hard this year. We had to. They were the ones carrying us for a long time. It's something we've discussed and certainly is an option. You have to have all six guys healthy and ready to go. It really depends where Marco is at going forward."

Gonzales played light catch prior to Thursday's series opener with the A's to keep his shoulder loose and said things are "heading in the right direction," but he added there was no timeline yet on when he might return.

Gonzales, 26, will be eligible to come off the DL on Tuesday, when the Mariners are back home against the Orioles, but he didn't indicate his return was that imminent, given he's not close to getting back on the mound for a bullpen session.

"A bullpen is not on the radar," Gonzales said. "We're taking light baby steps right now."

The Mariners are eager to get Paxton back in the rotation as the big lefty will return for his first game since taking a line drive off his left forearm against the A's on Aug. 14, the last time Seattle was in Oakland.

Paxton acknowledged it's been tough missing time with his club fighting to stay in American League Wild Card contention and knows it's reaching now-or-never time with the Mariners facing the A's for four games while trailing them by 5 1/2 for the second AL Wild Card berth.

"This is kind of it, right here, huh? This is a big series for us," Paxton said. "Coming off a tough series in San Diego, we didn't play very well. Hopefully we can turn things around and get things going the right direction here.

"We were hot and playing really good baseball [earlier in the year]. The A's surged, and they haven't really stopped surging. They've played really well, and we at times have not. We are finding ourselves having to catch up to them, so hopefully we can do the same thing to them that they did to us."

White heads AFL selections

First baseman Evan White, the Mariners' No. 2 prospect per MLB Pipeline, heads a list of eight Seattle prospects who've been selected to participate in the Arizona Fall League this offseason.

Also selected were pitchers David McKay, Wyatt Mills, Anthony Misiewicz and Matt Walker, catcher Joe DeCarlo, infielder Chris Mariscal and outfielder Ian Miller. Mills is the club's No. 9 prospect, Miller is No. 20 and Misiewicz is No. 27.

The eight will play for a Peoria Javelinas squad that will be managed by Daren Brown, the Mariners' manager for Double-A Arkansas. The AFL season runs from Oct. 9 to Nov. 17, with prospects from all 30 MLB teams making up the six participating teams.

White was the Mariners' first-round Draft pick in 2017, out of the University of Kentucky, and has been on a tear the last month for Class A Advanced Modesto. Servais was impressed by the athletic first baseman during Spring Training and is interested to see how he performs in the AFL.

"It's good for Evan," Servais said. "It sounds like he's picked things up here lately. Your first full season, you kind of find out a lot about guys once they go through the long grind of it, and he seems to be finishing strong. He's a good-looking player. I certainly understand why we took him where we did in the Draft, and I hope he continues to progress, because I know the last month has been really good for him."

Mariners acquire utility player from D-backs

The Mariners made a cash trade with the D-backs, acquiring 32-year-old utility player and assigning him to Triple-A Tacoma on Thursday.

Negron played two games for the D-backs this season, going 1-for-3 with an RBI. He hit .283 with 15 home runs and 45 RBIs in 118 games for Triple-A Reno.

The versatile Negron has played every position except pitcher and catcher in five seasons in the Majors with the Reds and D-backs, batting .216 with six homers and 21 RBIs in 112 games. Most of his time has come in the infield, where he's started 23 big league games at third base, 17 at second and 11 at shortstop. He's also started nine games in the outfield and three at first base.

September help on the way

The Mariners will bring in reinforcements on Saturday, when rosters can be expanded with September callups, with anyone on the 40-man roster eligible to be added to the big league club for the final month.

Servais said one group of players will arrive Saturday, with a few more additions after Triple-A Tacoma's season ends on Monday and another player or two from Double-A Arkansas once that club finishes its playoff run.

"We need them," Servais said. "We certainly need the arms in the bullpen. It'll give some other guys an opportunity to help out, whether it's late in games or a spot start here or there. It can be really helpful."

Six Tacoma pitchers who've already been with the Mariners earlier this year could potentially be added -- lefty and right-handers , , , and . Catcher , first baseman and utility man are also possibilities.

Relievers Matt Festa and are both at Arkansas and could be added as well, because they're on the 40-man roster.