Mariners skipping Kikuchi's next start

June 1st, 2019

SEATTLE – After left-hander put up back-to-back rough outings, the Mariners have decided to skip his next scheduled start, Tuesday against the Astros.

Manager Scott Servais said on Saturday that instead of giving Kikuchi an occasional one-inning start, as had been talked about going into the season, they’ll give the 27-year-old rookie a total break before working him back into the rotation later next week.

“Just recharge the batteries,” Servais said. “That’s all we’re doing.”

After going 1-1 with a 4.68 ERA over 32 2/3 innings in his first six starts, Kikuchi made a one-inning outing on April 26, with rookie Justus Sheffield called up from Triple-A Tacoma to fill in after him in that game against the Rangers.

He’s since gone 2-2 with a 4.32 ERA in 33 1/3 innings over his next six starts. But after pitching extremely well immediately following his short start, Kikuchi allowed 20 hits and 11 runs (10 earned) in 6 2/3 innings over his last two outings, against the A’s and Angels.

Servais said the break will give Kikuchi a chance to regroup, both mentally and physically.

“The goal when we signed him was to get through the whole season and keep him strong throughout,” Servais said. “He’s learning a lot. He got hit a little bit. Oakland was on him pretty good. Texas got on him pretty good the other day. But when his stuff is right and he’s locating the ball, he’s really good. We’ve seen a lot more good than bad. He just had a couple rough outings. We’ll give him a little break, and he’ll be back in there.”

Sheffield won’t be an option to get the spot start in Kikuchi’s place on Tuesday as he started Saturday’s game for Tacoma. Rookie Erik Swanson, who started six games for Seattle earlier in the year as a fill-in for Wade LeBlanc, went on the injured list for Tacoma on Friday with a hamstring issue.

That would leave veteran Jon Niese (3-1 with a 4.68 ERA in seven games, six starts) and 24-year-old lefty prospect Anthony Misiewicz (2-1, 4.42 ERA in four games, three starts) as the likeliest candidates. Both pitched well in a doubleheader for Tacoma on Thursday and would be in line to pitch on normal rest again on Tuesday.

Worth noting

• Right-handed reliever Sam Tuivailala said that his sore shoulder is feeling better and that medical tests showed no issues, so he’ll continue working with the Mariners' trainers and then get back on the bullpen mound in the next four or five days. 

Tuivailala just completed a 30-day Minor League rehab stint as he returns from last August’s Achilles tendon surgery, but he developed some tightness in his shoulder in his final two outings. He doesn’t know if he’ll need further rehab outings, but he definitely would like to face hitters before joining the big league club.

• Dee Gordon did some hitting in the cage on Friday and will likely progress to batting practice in the next day or two as he recovers from a deep bone bruise in his right wrist. Ryon Healy, also on the 10-day IL, isn’t doing any hitting yet and is still having some issues with the stiffness in his lower back that has sidelined him since May 21.