HOUSTON — Utilityman Shawn O’Malley is still sporting a sore right foot as the result of a foul ball in Saturday’s game, but he remains available, which allows the Mariners to avoid a series of roster moves.
It is O’Malley’s versatility that permits the Mariners to carry 13 pitchers on their 25-man roster. They added the extra reliever on June 24 and are likely to keep playing with a short bench at least through the All-Star break.
"We could not do it without Shawn O’Malley," manager Scott Servais said. "Without the value he brings to our team with the platoons and match-up (situations), you would need to carry two guys.
"He has the ability to run all over the field and defend, switch-hit and run. And he has held his own. The at-bats are OK. He bunts, he puts the ball in play. He can steal a base. He’s a very valuable player in that role."
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No player starts out as a utilityman. O’Malley spent his first four pro seasons as a shortstop in the Tampa Bay system following his selection in the fifth round of the 2006 draft.
O’Malley added second base to his resume in the 2009 Arizona Fall League and played left field for the first time in 2012. But it wasn’t until 2014, while in spring training with the Angels, that he began to embrace the role.
It was the late innings of a game against Cleveland in Goodyear, Ariz., when Angels, short on players, began canvassing the players who remained available on their bench.
"They were running up and down, asking, `Does anybody play outfield here?’" O’Malley recalled. "We were down to the last two or three guys on the bench. I was like, `Yeah, I can play it. Yeah, sure, I’ve done it.’
"I had to borrow somebody’s outfield glove, and then I ran out to the outfield. I didn’t want to miss an opportunity to get in a game. Who knows what would have happened if I hadn’t spoke up and said something? It worked out in my favor."
The Mariners have already used O’Malley at second, short, third and all three outfield positions. He was warming up June 2 at San Diego to pitch before the Mariners rallied from a 10-run deficit for a 16-13 victory.
O’Malley is also the club’s emergency backup catcher. That possibility surfaced June 29 when Steve Clevenger suffered a broken hand, which left the Mariners with just Chris Iannetta for the remainder of the game.
Whatever it takes, O’Malley plans to be ready.
"They do a good job of giving me a little heads-up that I could possibly play (a specific position) in the next day or two," he said. "That way, I make sure get some extra work at whatever that position may be.
"I’m fortunate that they think of me as that guy (who can play anywhere). It’s cool that they count on me to be that guy. I think they know I’ll definitely put the work in to be prepared and be ready."
PLANS FOR HERNANDEZ
Injured ace right-hander Felix Hernandez is scheduled to throw three 15-pitch simulated innings Wednesday as the next step in his recovery from a strained muscle in his right calf.
In simulated games, a pitcher faces hitters, who take swings, but the innings are limited to a specific number of pitches. The pitcher then rests for a few minutes, to simulate the break when his club is batting, before returning to the mound.
Hernandez was 4-4 with a 2.86 ERA in 10 starts before suffering the injury after a May 27 start against Minnesota.
Barring a setback in the simulated game, Hernandez is scheduled to make two rehab starts in the minor leagues before rejoining the big-league rotation.
Tentative plans call for rehab starts July 10 at Short-A Everett and July 15 at Triple-A Tacoma before rejoining the Mariners for a July 20 start against the Chicago White Sox at Safeco Field.
The Mariners will reach the All-Star break for the first time in their 40-year history with at least seven players having at least 10 homers. One more homer this week by Franklin Gutierrez will make it eight players.
Entering Monday, with seven games remaining prior to the break, Nelson Cruz had club-leading 21 homers, followed by Robinson Cano (19), Kyle Seager (16), Adam Lind (12), Leonys Martin (11), Dae-Ho Lee (11) and Seth Smith (10).
The previous club record was six players in double digits on five occasions, all of which occurred when the Mariners played their home games at the more-homer-friendly Kingdome.
***1986: Jim Presley (18, finished with 27), Ken Phelps (14, 24), Danny Tartabull (14, 25), Dave Henderson (12, 14), Alvin Davis (11, 18) and Gorman Thomas (10, 10).
***1996: Jay Buhner (23, 44), Ken Griffey Jr. (23, 49), Edgar Martinez (22, 26), Alex Rodriguez (17, 36), Paul Sorrento (15, 23) and Dan Wilson (12, 18).
***1997: Ken Griffey Jr. (30, 56), Jay Buhner (22, 40), Paul Sorrento (17, 31), Edgar Martinez (16, 28), Russ Davis (12, 20) and Alex Rodriguez (12, 23).
***1998: Ken Griffey Jr. (35, 56), Alex Rodriguez (27, 42), David Segui (15, 19), Edgar Martinez (15, 29), Russ Davis (14, 20) and Glenallen Hill (12, 12).
***1999: Ken Griffey Jr. (29, 48), Alex Rodriguez (18, 42), Russ Davis (17, 21), Butch Huskey (15, 15), David Bell (15, 21) and Edgar Martinez (14, 24).
Lo-A Clinton right-hander Nick Neidert pitched a career-high eight innings in a 5-2 victory at Peoria (Cardinals). He gave up two runs and five hits while striking out 11 and not walking a batter.
Neidert, 19, is 6-1 with a 2.22 ERA and has 43 strikeouts and six walks in 48 2/3 innings over eight starts since his May 24 promotion from extended spring training. He was the Mariners’ top pick, No. 60 overall, in the 2015 draft.
It was 21 years ago Tuesday — July 5, 1995 — that first baseman Tino Martinez went 5-for-5 with two homers, one double and five RBIs in an 8-6 loss at Detroit.
It was the second of four five-hit games in Martinez’s 16-year career. He also did it for the Mariners in 1992 in a 5-4 loss to Oakland, for the Yankees in 1997 in a 12-9 victory at Detroit, and for the Cardinals in 2003 in a 7-6 victory at Florida.
Martinez, now 48, was the Mariners’ first-round pick in 1988. He played six seasons with the Mariners before a Dec. 7, 1995 trade sent him to New York with Jim Mecir and Jeff Nelson for Russ Davis and Sterling Hitchcock.
Seth Smith entered Monday’s game with a chance to join Jay Buhner as the only player in Mariners history to drive in at least four runs in three straight games. Buhner did it from Sept. 11-13, 1995 in a three-game series against Minnesota at the Kingdome. He had five in the first game and four apiece in the next two games. Smith went 0-for-4 and must settle for being one of 10 Mariners to have four or more RBIs in back-to-back games…the All-Star rosters will be announced at 4 p.m. Tuesday on ESPN. Second baseman Robinson Cano and designated hitter Nelson Cruz are viewed as strong candidates for selection as reserves on the American League club. The All-Star Game is July 12 at Petco Park in San Diego.
The Mariners and Astros continue their four-game series at 5:10 p.m. Pacific time Tuesday at Minute Maid Park. Right-hander Taijuan Walker (4-6 with a 3.29 ERA) will face Houston right-hander Dallas Keuchel (5-9, 5.13).
The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest and heard on 710 ESPN.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners