Christian Bergman isn’t necessarily pitching Sunday to hold his spot in the Mariners’ rotation. That already seems a long shot with Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma poised to return next week from the disabled list.
Bergman might be pitching to hold his spot on the big-league roster.
The Mariners, barring something unexpected, must clear two spots in their rotation, and the likely casualties are Bergman and rookie Sam Gaviglio, who were each plugged into the unit last month when injuries created openings.
Bergman and Gaviglio each have options, which means they can be sent to the minors and, if desired, brought back at any point.
The other seemingly at-risk candidate is veteran Yovani Gallardo who, based purely on the numbers, might deserve the boot. He is 3-7 with a 6.30 ERA after giving up five runs in five innings Saturday in a 10-4 loss to Texas.
But Gallardo can’t be sent to the minors and has a guaranteed contract. That leaves the Mariners with three choices: trade him, release him (at a cost of roughly $7 million) or demote him to the bullpen as a long reliever.
The bullpen is an unlikely option. Gallardo hasn’t pitched in relief since he was a rookie in 2007 at Milwaukee — and then only three times before he became a fixture in the Brewers’ rotation.
But Bergman and Gaviglio are reasonable options to add stability to the long-relief role. Bergman has been a swingmen throughout his career, and Gaviglio possesses the stuff to negotiate a lineup twice but (maybe) not three times.
The next two days could be an audition. Bergman enters Sunday’s series finale against the Rangers at 3-4 with a 5.75 ERA. Gaviglio carries a 3-1 record and a 3.51 ERA into Monday’s series opener against Detroit at Safeco Field.
***Texas is starting right-hander Yu Darvish (6-4 with a 3.03 ERA) in the series finale, which begins at 12:05 p.m. Pacific time at Globe Life Park. The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest.
***Darvish is 5-3 with a 4.13 ERA in 11 career starts against the Mariners. He got a no-decision on May 5 despite yielding just one run in seven innings at Safeco Field. Texas won that game 3-1 in 13 innings on Rougned Odor’s two-run homer against Emilio Pagan.
***Kyle Seager is 10-for-29 in his career against Darvish. Robinson Cano is 8-for-22, and Danny Valencia is 5-for-16, but Nelson Cruz has just one hit in nine at-bats.
***The Mariners are 24-15 on Father’s Day but just 7-10 on the road. Their only road victory in 15 years on Father’s Day was in 2004 at Pittsburgh.
***Left fielder Ben Gamel leads all American League hitters in June with a.406 average (26-for-64). With a .343 overall average, he would lead the AL if he had 13 more plate appearances.
***Right fielder Mitch Haniger has reached base safely at least once in 27 of his 28 games. He’s had at least one hit in 23 games, and one or more walks in the other four.
***Two five-run innings buried the Mariners in Saturday’s 10-4 loss. The Mariners have allowed five or more runs this season in 17 innings, and are 2-11 in games when it happens.
***Felix Hernandez pitched six scoreless innings Saturday for Triple-A Tacoma is what figures to be his final rehab start in his recovery from bursitis in his shoulder. He was diagnosed with the injury after an April 25 start at Detroit.
***Hi-A Modesto clinched the first-half pennant in the California League North Division with Saturday’s 11-1 romp over Inland Empire. The Nuts are the first Mariners’ affiliate this season to qualify for postseason.
It was 15 years ago Sunday — June 18, 2002 — that Ken Griffey Jr. faced the Mariners for the first time as an opponent following the Feb. 10, 2000 trade that sent him to Cincinnati.
Griffey went 2-for-3 with a walk, but the Mariners beat the Reds 8-1 at Cinergy Field in Cincinnati. In all, Griffey played eight games against the Mariners during his nine years away from the club and went 10-for-26 (.385) with three home runs.
His 1.182 career OPS against the Mariners, while in limited action, is his highest mark against any opponent.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners