PEORIA, Ariz. - The competition for the final spot in the Seattle Mariners rotation has lost a contender - at least for now.
Veteran left-hander Nate Robertson, who signed a minor league contract but was expected to compete for a starting job, will have surgery Wednesday in Los Angeles to remove loose bone particles from his throwing elbow. He is expected to miss six to eight weeks.
Dodgers team physician Dr. Neal ElAttrache, who performed two previous surgeries on Robertson’s elbow, will perform the procedure.
“It’s really something you can’t prevent,” Robertson said. “It was just a bone chip that’s kind of moved around to a really bad spot. It’s locked me up. It’s pretty painful. They’re not going to be able to make any good judgments of what I can do when I’m messing with that. It needs to be cleaned up.”
Robertson was bothered by elbow discomfort in his past two outings. In three spring appearances, he has pitched seven innings and allowed 11 hits and six runs, with two walks and seven strikeouts.
“After my first outing I felt great, everything was working well,” he said. “During the second start, I felt something coming on.”
The Mariners expect Robertson to resume throwing in about four weeks. He said he hopes to be back no later than June.
Robertson, right-hander David Pauley, lefty Luke French and hard-throwing prospect Michael Pineda are vying for the last spot in the rotation. Now it’s a three-man race.
“It’s terrible timing for me trying to make the club,” Robertson said.
But a meeting with general manager Jack Zduriencik, manager Eric Wedge and pitching coach Carl Willis affirmed the Mariners’ faith in Robertson.
“Everybody is on the same page about still wanting me to be here, still believing I can help,” Robertson said. “They understand it’s not a career-threatening surgery. Once I get healthy, then that evaluation process starts. And hopefully it starts soon.”
Dustin Ackley doesn’t look like he packs much power. With his offseason weight work and the thick beard he’s grown this spring, the Mariners top hitting prospect still looks like he’s barely 150 pounds. Truth is, he weighs 195 pounds, and weight doesn’t matter when you have Ackley’s bat speed.
That power was on display during Monday’s “B” game against the San Diego Padres, which Seattle won, 4-1.
In his third at-bat, Ackley ripped a 3-2 fastball off Padres left-hander Rob Musgrave to right field. The ball exploded off the bat, cleared the fence 340 feet away and caromed off the top of a two-story building 50 feet beyond the fence. It bounced all the way back onto the field.
“That was the best one I’ve hit in a while,” he said. “It’s probably the best one this year. I got it pretty good.”
It drew oohs and ahhs from the small group of fans and respect from his teammates.
Did the ball go 400 feet?
“At least that, if not farther, the building got in the way,” pitcher Chris Seddon said. “That kid is a hitting freak.”
Said Greg Halman to hitting coach Chris Chambliss: “It was beautiful.”
The power surge wasn’t over. Chris Gimenez followed Ackley with a homer of his own, launching a ball over the 385 feet sign in left-center.
Ackley got a hit in his final at-bat to finish 2-for-4, but “B” game hits don’t count in spring training average.
In Cactus League games, Ackley’s hitting .350 (7-for-20) with an on-base percentage of .550.
In Monday’s game against the Cubs, Ackley had one at-bat and went down and stung a low fastball into center for a hit.
The Mariners made two roster moves Monday. They optioned left-hander Seddon to minor-league camp and sent right-hander Chaz Roe to Triple-A Tacoma. That leaves 54 players in camp. The Mariners have an off day in the Cactus League, but that doesn’t mean the clubhouse will be quiet. Left-hander Erik Bedard will throw a simulated game to stay on schedule.
Ryan Divish: 253-597-8483 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners