The flicker of momentum the Mariners displayed with three wins to begin the season took a double dousing in a single at-bat Friday against Boston. Closer Hunter Strickland, troubled by shoulder pain, gave up a game-winning, three-run pinch homer to Mitch Moreland, then found himself Saturday on the 10-day injured list after being diagnosed with a strained lat.
The club Saturday promoted from AAA Tacoma RHP David McKay, 23 on Sunday, who will make his major league debut when he pitches. McKay was acquired from Kansas City in March 2018. This spring he was 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA in six games with two walks and seven strikeouts.
The closer’s job likely will be done by committee.
Strickland, 30, was a free agent signed Jan. 27 and won the closer job more or less by default after the off-season trade of All-Star closer Edwin Diaz.
He entered the game in the ninth to hold a 6-4 lead, but gave up a double, wild pitch and a hit batter. Manager Scott Servais, seeing Strickland having discomfort, went to the mound. Hunter talked him out of a change, but after an out at the plate, he served up a 2-0 fastball in the middle of the plate that Moreland crushed.
It’s a tough call, no doubt,” Servais told reporters said about accepting Strickland’s judgment. “You have to trust your players. It’s one thing if the guy typically throws 95-96 miles per hour. If he’s throwing 89-90, then, yeah, you get them out. He wasn’t finishing his pitches and didn’t have a feel for his breaking ball.”
Strickland had saves in each of his first two appearances in Tokyo against the A’s without allowing a run.
Last season he was 3-5 with 14 saves and a 3.97 ERA in 49 games with the San Francisco Giants. He was on the 10-day injured list June 19-Aug. 18 with a fractured right hand after punching a door following a blown save.
He is 14-15 with 21 saves and a 3.00 ERA in parts of six big league seasons with San Francisco (2014-2018) and Seattle. He was selected by the Boston Red Sox in the 18th round of the 2007 draft out of high school in Georgia.
McKay pitched at three levels of the Mariners farm system last season, making stops at High-A Modesto (six games), Triple-A Tacoma (one) and Double-A Arkansas. In 35 relief appearances with Arkansas, he was 5-1 with a save and a 2.49 ERA with 71 strikeouts and 21 walks. He held opposing batters to a .199 (36×181) average against and struck out at least one batter in 32 of 35 appearances.
The Mariners were to have sent RHP Mike Leake (10-10, 4.36 in ‘18) against Boston LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (13-5, 3.82 in ‘18) Saturday night in a third of a four-game series against the world champs.