King Felix heads to DL with right calf strain

Paxton promoted from Triple-A to start Wednesday vs. Padres

June 1st, 2016

SAN DIEGO -- A Mariners team pushing for its first playoff appearance since 2001 will do so for the next few weeks, at least, without ace right-hander Felix Hernandez, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Wednesday with a strained right calf.

Left-hander James Paxton was recalled from Triple-A Tacoma to start Wednesday's game against the Padres at Petco Park in place of Hernandez.

Manager Scott Servais said Hernandez felt pain in his calf during Tuesday's pregame stretching and workout but had no previous issue with the leg.

"Right now I'm hopeful that it's only a couple starts and we can get him back as soon as possible," Servais said before Wednesday's game. "I'm trying to keep the glass half full and stay positive. Hopefully he'll have a little extra left in his tank at the end of the year because he's getting a little breather now. But it has nothing to do with his arm. It's all related to the calf."

Hernandez was examined in Seattle on Wednesday by Mariners physician Ed Khalfayan. If the injury proves to be very minor, Hernandez potentially will miss only two starts, since the DL move is retroactive to Saturday -- the day after his most recent start. He will be eligible to return on June 12, which is the final day of the Mariners' next homestand.

Hernandez gave up eight hits and six runs in six innings in his last outing, a 7-2 loss to the Twins on Friday, with five hits and five runs coming in a rough third inning, though he righted himself and finished by retiring 11 of the final 12 batters he faced.

Hernandez is 4-4 with a 2.86 ERA in 10 starts. The 30-year-old has been one of the most durable pitchers in baseball over the past decade, throwing 200-plus innings for the past eight seasons and 190-plus for 10 straight years.

Hernandez has been on the 15-day disabled list just twice in his 12-year MLB career. He missed three weeks with a strained right elbow in 2007 and two weeks in '08 with a sprained left ankle.

Servais said the Mariners won't rush their ace back before he's ready.

"Obviously it's his right leg, his push-off leg, and we all know his delivery and how much torque he puts on that leg, so we've got to be careful that he's 100 percent when he comes back," Servais said. "It just happened. No other issues, just kind of a freak deal. Felix isn't one to miss a start. It's pretty abnormal."

Hernandez will remain in Seattle during the Mariners' five-game road trip.

"He's disappointed," Servais said. "He's sore today. It's bothering him a little walking around. He'll be down and not do a whole lot for the next couple days, but he'll keep his arm activated so he doesn't lose much time there."

Paxton posted a 12-8 record and 3.16 ERA in 30 starts over the past three years with Seattle, but he missed considerable time with several injuries in 2014 and '15. He lost the battle for the Mariners' fifth-starter spot this spring to Nathan Karns.

The 27-year-old southpaw went 4-3 with a 3.97 ERA in 10 starts for Tacoma. He allowed three hits and two unearned runs with two walks and five strikeouts in six innings in his most recent outing at Round Rock on Thursday.

Paxton was scheduled to start against Salt Lake on Tuesday at Cheney Stadium, but instead he was replaced by reliever Jonathan Aro, who threw four shutout innings in a 5-3 loss to Salt Lake.

The Mariners, led by a pitching staff with the lowest ERA in the league at 3.37, headed into Wednesday's action a half-game back of Texas in the American League West with a 30-21 record.

Fantasy spin | Fred Zinkie (@FredZinkieMLB) 

Fantasy owners who need a Hernandez fill-in should look no further than his rotation replacement, Paxton. With a 3.16 ERA across 165 innings with Seattle and a lifetime 9.6 K/9 rate in the Minors, Paxton is due for a pair of extremely favorable starts: in San Diego tonight and at home vs. the Indians on Monday. Owners could also look to add Dodgers prospect Julio Urias, who was recently recalled to rejoin the big league rotation. In the coming weeks, the 19-year-old could post low ratios with a high K rate.