BY Art Thiel 07:30PM 07/08/2015

Thiel: What if the Mariners had rested Cano?

The Mariners lost another close game, and close series. After news that Robinson Cano was dealing with a treatable illness since August, the question rises as what could have been done differently.

Robinson Cano went 1-for-5 Wednesday with two strikeouts. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

Just when it’s possible to think that the outside hob-goblins — marine layers, intestinal parasites and slow roof closures — have run their course through the Mariners, the hitters Wednesday go 0-for-14 with runners in scoring position.

The default position for the 2015 Mariners: Error 404, hits not found.

So the Miguel Cabrera-less Detroit Tigers won the game, 5-4, the series 2-1, and the Mariners won a participation ribbon for joining the Tigers in tying the Safeco Field record for most combined homers (14) in a three-game series. Big deal.

Since Detroit had nine, including one Wednesday by rookie 1B Jefry Marte in his first MLB start, the Tigers won the sort of close series that could have gone either way, as so many Mariners series have been, in a year of remarkable American League parity.

“We can certainly be more efficient in those spots,” said interim field boss Trent Jewett, referring stiffly to the RISP skunk. “I don’t think it’s completely uncommon to us. It’s happened previously.”

No kidding. A team doesn’t get to be last in runs scored without being consistent. And don’t worry, Jewett — no one is blaming you. Manager Lloyd McClendon returned to the clubhouse at game’s end Wednesday after attending the funeral of his sister, and he’s only a lesser culprit.

OF Dustin Ackley, who hit a two-run homer to tie the game at 4-4 in the fourth inning but stranded runners in his next two at-bats, relied upon a familiar crutch to explain the hitting woes.

“Sometimes the situation gets the best of us and we do too much,” he said. “We try to win it ourselves instead of keeping it simple.”

While that can be true for many hitters on many clubs, why is it so often true in this half-season for the Mariners, especially for a lineup with plenty of MLB experience?

It’s hard to know, but now that 2B Robinson Cano seems to be recovering from his previously undisclosed bout with an intestinal parasite and acid reflux, the question needs to be asked:

Could Cano have been rested in order to bring him back healthy sooner?

I requested GM Jack Zduriencik Wednesday to answer the question, but I was told he wasn’t available.

So I have to rely on his quote given to reporters Monday after USA Today broke the story Sunday that Cano owned up to the disorder in a Spanish-language conversation with a reporter.

“Of course, we knew about this, but Robby hasn’t made excuses,’’ Zduriencik said. “He’s tried to be a pro about it. He’s gone about his own business the best way he can. Hopefully, it’s behind him and it’s manageable, and he can play baseball the way he wants to play baseball and the way he’s capable of. ”

Tried to be a pro? If a player is holding back information that is compromising his play, that isn’t being a pro. Of course, the macho imperative is understood: A player, especially one making an annual $24 million, does not stop unless bone is sticking out. But still, the club has to be prepared to override a player’s emotions for the greater good.

The problem began in August, and presumably impacted his poor September when the Mariners just missed the playoffs. Its impacts lingered apparently until recently. Before a 1-for-5 day Wednesday, Cano in July was hitting .400 (12×30) with two doubles, two home runs and five RBIs. Since June 9 he was hitting .284 with an OPS of .811.

Perhaps because he turned a health corner, he felt comfortable in disclosure. But maintaining the mystery for most of his worst year as a pro, opening him to criticism and his teammates to additional pressure, calls into question whether he and the club did the right thing by allowing him to continue to play — especially if the conditions he described were accurate.

“It still affects me,” Cano told USA Today. “Sometimes you drink water and it makes you feel like vomiting. I can’t eat the same way I did. It’s hard to deal with, especially being the first time this has happened to me. Sometimes I eat only once a day before playing, because I feel full. And you just don’t have the same energy.”

Acid reflux is a condition known to millions and is treatable. Many continue to work despite its effects. But at the level Cano is paid to play for a 162-game season, much is asked of him. Maybe too much.

From the outside, it’s hard to say. Lots of players go through emotional and/or physical problems either they or the clubs decline to disclose. It’s competitive. That’s understood.

But the Mariners are all in to win this year, and when their No. 1 offensive guy contributes for most of three months at a Bloomquistian level, that’s a serious problem. Resting him will cause controversy, as will playing him at a sub-par level.

Unfortunately for him, he’s joined a club with a long history of dubious personnel moves, so hard-earned skepticism greets every move.

I believe the Mariners brought all medical resources to bear, and I believe Cano insisted on playing. But when the Mariners offer an 0-for-14 RISP faceplant as they so often have this season, continuing to thwart an otherwise talented group still managing to stay on the playoffs periphery, everything gets called into question, especially when it’s draped in mystery the club has yet to address.


Felix Hernandez (10-5, 3.02) goes against RHP Garrett Richards (9-5, 3.35) as the Angels come to town for a four-game series.


  • Sam Base

    I think the M’s have a general tendency to not rest guys enough (and other guys too much), so if they did indeed mishandle the Cano situation it wouldn’t surprise me. Not to put blame on him, but just as a side thought, I wish Cal Ripken had never set his famous record. It distorted reality and expectations in a way few records ever have.

    • art thiel

      Shallowness of MLB talent contributes a little to the pressure on the stars. Cano may feel he needs to be Superman at $24M.

  • greybeard56

    Looks like Howie’s already selected Jack Z’s replacement…

  • Rj Smith

    The M’s have no idea how to manage a roster. They constantly rush players back from injuries. Remember when Mike Morse broke a finger on the follow through/power hand? He was red hot prior to the injury, so out of desperation he was rushed back after 2 weeks on the DL & a couple games in the minors. His finger was never healed properly & he absolutely sucked terribly from then on. Amazing how he has hit well since leaving. Iwakuma has clearly been rushed back. He should be rehabbing in Tacoma still beyond the break, not giving up tons of homers for the M’s. I can guarantee once Paxton starts throwing, he will be rushed right back to Seattle instead of 5 rehab starts. Oh & not surprised they lost yet another series while having their illustrious 1 game win streak snapped again.

    • art thiel

      A 14-year urgency to win now, and always failing, adds its own pressure.

      • Rj Smith

        The urgency to win would be correct, if the M’s actually hired competent baseball people to run the outfit & really cared about winning the division every year. Trader Jack Z is absolutely awful at identifying offensive players & we know this, but for 7 years he has been allowed to run out there the worst offense in baseball. There isn’t a GM anywhere else who would’ve lasted half as long with this nonsense, except maybe Philly with Amaro. What the M’s don’t seem to grasp is, if the team actually wins, they will make more money. M’s = Clownshow.

        • art thiel

          The guy in KC was declared DOA in his 4th year by Royals fans, but now it’s year nine and he’s done OK. Nevertheless, Z and Bavasi had identical records after five seasons running M’s. Z got to 87 wins a year ago, that earned him this season. He’s got to turn it around.

  • Long-Time Mariners Fan

    OK, let’s look at the other side of the coin… last Wednesday in San Diego, Taijuan Walker was pulled after 76 pitches by McClendon. The following two quotes appeared in these pages:

    “I wanted to stay in there. I felt like I had gotten into a groove. It was frustrating to come out” — Walker

    “There’s a lot of things that went into pulling him. No. 1, this is a young pitcher going deep in games. We have to protect him and his innings. He may not like it, but 12 years from now when he’s still pitching, he’ll thank me. Taijuan Walker was great today and he probably didn’t deserve to come out. He’s probably ticked off, but it is what it is” — manager Lloyd McClendon on pulling Walker.

    The contradictions here frustrate me – as Arthur points out, a good rest of Cano may have helped alleviate or even cure his ailment, getting him back in the lineup, full-strength, in the short/medium term. But McClendon is looking into the crystal ball and looking out for Walker’s career 12 years down the line. It frustrates me, but I’ve been frustrated for a good long time.

    • art thiel

      Rest for young arms and rest for veteran position players have different purposes, especially given expectations, which are overwhelming upon Cano.

  • Kevin Lynch

    Shoot. I was going to wager $2 against anyone’s $10,000 that RJ was NOT going to mention the M’s inability to win two straight games. But he beat me to it.

    All levity aside, stress probably plays a role here with Cano’s situation and also with Gutierrez’s past problems. But, as always, it’s very difficult to pinpoint. The stomach and the back seem to be the first places stress tends to locate. Some of these contracts…no human being can play up to them. They’re beyond gargantuan.

    Maybe if the M’s establish a canister of laughing gas in the dugout…yeah…and every time someone makes an error in the field or a flub on the bases everybody in the dugout gets to take a hit. THAT should relax everybody!

    • art thiel

      I’m sure the Root folks can spare a canister of happy.

      • Sonics79

        Also the radio crew – they broadcast from inside that canister.

        • art thiel

          “It’s a beautiful day out for baseball!’

  • Rich

    Didn’t Cano play some Winter ball? If he wasn’t feeling well, shouldn’t the M’s have stopped him from doing that?

    • art thiel

      He played on he MLB team in Japan in November, and five games in the DR in front of his ailing grandfather. In hindsight, may have added a little to the load.

  • Diarina

    ▲✺✔❉❊✺✔❉❊✯✔ ✯✔✯✔