The attraction of having Mike Montgomery, his hottest pitcher, work Sunday’s series finale against division-rival Oakland proved too strong to resist for Seattle Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon.
That means Hisashi Iwakuma’s return to the rotation is now likely to be Monday against Detroit in the first game of a weeklong homestand that concludes the Mariners’ pre-All-Star break schedule.
McClendon confirmed Friday that Montgomery, a left-hander who pitched shutouts in his two previous starts, will stay on his regular turn for Sunday’s game against the Athletics.
As for Iwakuma … officially, that’s still undetermined.
“We’ll probably make that decision after (Friday’s) game,” McClendon said. “Then I’ll have an answer on what we’re going to do.”
Iwakuma, 34, hasn’t pitched since suffering a strained back muscle — the right latissimus dorsi — on April 21 in a routine day-after throwing session following an April 20 start against Houston.
He appears poised to return after making three rehab starts — one at Short-A Everett and two at Triple-A Tacoma. He permitted two runs and 11 hits in 131/3 innings while striking out 13 and walking two.
Iwakuma, a right-hander, exited his last start, June 30 at Tacoma, in the sixth inning because of a finger blister, which has long been a problem in part because of his reliance on a split-finger fastball.
But he experienced no problems with his back, and Mariners officials cleared him to return to active duty when his finger posed no problem Thursday in a routine between-starts bullpen workout.
Iwakuma was 0-1 with a 6.61 ERA in three starts before his injury, but he was a combined 38-20 with a 3.07 ERA over the three previous seasons. He is 4-4 and 3.84 in eight career games against Oakland.
The Mariners, if they activate Iwakuma, must make a corresponding space-clearing roster move. Most at risk is left-hander Roenis Elias, who gave up three runs in six innings in Thursday’s 4-0 loss to the Athletics.
Elias has tailed off sharply since his run of 16 consecutive starts of allowing three runs or less ended in a May 30 loss at Cleveland. He is 2-5 with a 5.95 ERA in his last seven starts.
The Mariners must make a decision Saturday on suspended left-handed reliever David Rollins, who appears in line for a recall to the big-league club after completing his 16-day rehab assignment at Triple-A Tacoma.
Rollins, 25, is a Rule 5 pick from Houston who received an 80-game suspension on March 27 after testing positive for stanozolol, an anabolic steroid that is often used by bodybuilders to enlarge muscle mass.
Rule 5 picks must remain on a major-league roster or the major-league disabled list for the entire next season. They must be offered back to their former club for $25,000 before they can be sent to the minors.
Rollins has not allowed a run in 91/3 innings over seven appearances in his rehab assignment at Tacoma. He has allowed seven hits while striking out eight and walking one.
Returning Rollins to active duty would require a corresponding space-clearing move on the 25-man Seattle roster. Left-handed reliever Vidal Nuno, who has options remaining, appears most at risk.
STICKING WITH TRUMBO
Struggling Mark Trumbo started Friday over Dustin Ackley, a left-handed hitter who was 5 for 12 in his career against Oakland right-hander Jesse Chavez.
“We need to get Trumbo going,” McClendon said. “He needs to get some consistent at-bats. He’s a big part of what we’re trying to accomplish. This guy has a tremendous track record, and we’ve got to get him going.
“He’s important to us. You look at his numbers, and he can put up big numbers in a hurry. We’ve got to get him going.”
Entering Friday’s game, Trumbo was batting .145 with one homer and five RBIs in 21 games since arriving in a June 3 trade with Arizona.
“I think it’s as simple as he’s not getting to a consistent launch position and getting himself ready to hit,” McClendon said. “That gets him in-between, which means late on the fastball and out in front on the change-up.”
Reports indicate that the Mariners reached agreements with three 16-year-old Dominicans since Thursday’s start to the international signing period. They have $2,150,300 in their allotted bonus pool.
• Shortstop Carlos Vargas, ranked as the No. 19 international prospect by Baseball America. It was initially reported that Vargas (6 feet 3, 180 pounds) received a $1.7 million bonus. Updated reports show that it was $1.625 million.
• Catcher Daniel Santos (6-2, 180) to a $110,000 bonus.
• Right-handed pitcher Ivan Fortunato (6-3, 170). His bonus has not been reported.
It was 24 years ago Saturday — July 4, 1991 — that Jay Buhner had the first of 22 multi-homer games in his career. He hit two against Greg Hibbard in a 3-2 victory over the Chicago White Sox at the Kingdome.
Buhner had at least one multi-homer game for nine consecutive years. He never hit three homers in a game.
Oakland manager Bob Melvin confirmed that ace right-hander Sonny Graywon’t start Sunday in the series finale. Gray is recovering from a nasty bout of salmonella and is targeted to start Tuesday in New York. The Mariners will instead face reliever Chris Bassitt, who is making a second straight spot start in place of Gray. … Logan Morrisonserved as the leadoff hitter for the 18th time since June 1. He had never batted leadoff in 511 career games over six seasons prior to June 1. … Mark Lowe’s 0.79 ERA trails only the 0.26 by Kansas City’s Wade Davis among American League pitchers with at least 20 appearances.
The Mariners and Athletics continue their four-game series at 1:05 p.m. Saturday at the O.co Coliseum.
Seattle right-hander Felix Hernandez (10-4, 3.05) will try for a third time to get his 11th victory when he faces Oakland right-hander Kendall Graveman (5-4, 3.47).
The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest and heard on 710 ESPN.