Seattle awaits MRI results, as J-Rod's resurgence slowed by sore quad

July 7th, 2024

SEATTLE -- Just as appeared to be on the cusp of turning a corner, the Mariners’ center fielder hit a speed bump when he was removed from Saturday’s 5-4 loss to the Blue Jays at T-Mobile Park in the second inning.

Rodríguez experienced soreness in his lower right quad area when doing pregame running drills on Saturday, Mariners manager Scott Servais said, which became pronounced enough to where he left after playing the top of the first in center field -- and before he took his first at-bat.

He was slated to undergo an MRI later Saturday night.

“It just tightened up, he didn't feel great,” Servais said. “He said, 'I'll give it a go.' He went out for the first inning, and after the first half-inning, he just said, 'No, this isn't right.'”

Asked if he would be OK while in the home clubhouse postgame, Rodríguez said: “I should be.” But he preferred not to speak further.

Rodríguez was seen moving gingerly during the first inning on Saturday, specifically when moving to his right on a hard-hit lineout that J.P. Crawford was able to successfully leap for and prevent from reaching the outfield grass.

Other than that, the Blue Jays didn’t hit anything in Rodríguez’s direction, and nothing appeared wrong until Ty France, who had a scheduled off-day, stood in the on-deck circle to pinch-hit in Rodríguez’s spot at cleanup in the bottom of the first.

The Mariners wound up going 1-2-3, as they did for most of the afternoon on a day where they had just one hit going into the eighth inning before making things interesting late. Rodríguez was then replaced defensively as they re-took the field, with France at first base and Luke Raley shifting from first to center.

“You kind of have an idea going into the game, how you're going to use your bench and whatnot,” Servais said. “When one of your main guys comes out like that, you've got to pivot quickly.”

In the midst of an inconsistent season headlined by a power drought, Rodríguez turned in arguably his best game of the year on Thursday, when he ripped a 428-foot homer (his first since June 15), a 113 mph double (his first of the year into the gap and his hardest-hit knock of the season) and stole third base with a rare headfirst slide. His homer put the Mariners on the board as they were looking to avoid a sweep against first-place Baltimore and the double sparked a five-run, tiebreaking rally in the eventual victory.

“He does have his timing down, and you're hoping as it heats up here, he heats up,” Servais said. “The ball is carrying better now than it normally does here. But again, you've got to take care of your body. That did not feel great, he didn't feel good at all, obviously.”

On Friday, after fouling a ball off his left knee, Rodríguez legged out an infield single that led to him scoring what wound up being the game-winning run in the third inning. It’s a wildly small sample, but in these past few days, he’s looked much more like his best self -- and what the Mariners’ star potentially can offer if he finds his peak. Overall, he’s hitting .247/.295/.335 (.630 OPS) this year with eight homers, seven doubles and 30 RBIs.

The Mariners didn’t get much going on Saturday after he left, at least not until the eighth, when they led off with four knocks in a row -- including a three-run homer from Mitch Haniger that brought them back within reach. Dylan Moore followed with a check-swing single into right then advanced to second base on a wild pitch, bringing the tying run and top of the order to the plate.

But Crawford (flyout), Jorge Polanco (strikeout) and Cal Raleigh (strikeout) went down in order to halt the rally. Polanco’s at-bat was particularly glaring, given that he was pinch-hitting for Josh Rojas and didn’t see a single pitch in the strike zone. He was out of the starting lineup for the third day in a row while continuing to work on offensive adjustments behind the scenes.

That opportunity almost certainly would’ve gone to France had Rodríguez remained in the game. The only other option was Ryan Bliss, and Servais opted for the veteran over the rookie.

Luke Raley then added a 113.3 mph solo blast in the ninth to make it a one-run game, but that’s all the Mariners would muster.