With Wade LeBlanc out at least a month, Mariners bring Erik Swanson back up from Tacoma

Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Erik Swanson pitches in the second inning of a spring training baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Saturday, March 9, 2019, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Erik Swanson pitches in the second inning of a spring training baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Saturday, March 9, 2019, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki) AP

Erik Swanson was back in the Seattle Mariners clubhouse Sunday morning after another brief stay in Triple-A Tacoma.

The 25-year-old rookie right-hander, who came out of the bullpen to make his MLB debut with the Mariners last week in Kansas City, is the roster replacement for injured starter Wade LeBlanc.

“Knowing that I’m coming back up here, obviously I wish it was under different circumstances,” Swanson said. “But, I’m excited to be up here and help out the team for sure.”

LeBlanc left Friday night’s game against Houston in the fifth inning with a strained right oblique, and was placed on the 10-day injured list Sunday after the injury was ruled as a Grade 2 strain. Mariners manager Scott Servais said LeBlanc, who has offered a steady presence in Seattle’s five-man rotation since returning to the club last season, could be out four to six weeks.

“Hopefully it’s on the shorter side,” Servais said. “You just never know with these things.”

Swanson was in uniform Sunday, and available if needed. He is also the presumed starter for Wednesday’s homestand finale against Cleveland, which was LeBlanc’s next scheduled start.

“Erik could take that spot in the rotation when it comes up again,” Servais said. “We’ll see. That’s what we’re thinking right now, but if we need Erik in the bullpen before that, we may use him.”

Swanson, who came to Seattle as part of the James Paxton trade with the New York Yankees, threw two innings of relief in his debut Thursday in Kansas City. He allowed two earned runs on three hits, while walking two and striking out four.

“He threw well,” Servais said. “He’s got a good fastball. The fastball has some riding action on it, and he got a lot of swings and misses on it.

“Again, he’s a young pitcher, he’s still got things to work on, but he had one really good outing in spring training against the Dodgers that stood out, and I thought he threw the ball well in Kansas City the other day.”

In his only appearance with Tacoma this season, in the Rainiers’ season opener on April 4, Swanson tossed five scoreless innings, allowing six hits and no walks while striking out eight. Swanson’s first start with Seattle will also be the first major league start of his career.

Servais said ideally the Mariners would want Swanson to get comfortable at the big-league level before firing him out there for his first start, but is confident in Swanson’s approach.

Realistically, Servais said the Mariners are hoping Swanson can pitch five innings of competitive ball.

“He’s a pretty mature guy,” Servais said. “He knows who he is. I think sometimes young guys get to the big leagues, they don’t quite know who they are yet.

“He knows what makes him successful, and where he needs to take his pitches in certain parts of the strike zone. And when he executes, he gets results.”

Swanson was informed by Tacoma manager Daren Brown midway through last night’s Rainiers game that he would be headed back to Seattle. He said the plan relayed to him was to fill LeBlanc’s spot, but said he is ready to pitch in whatever capacity the Mariners need — whether it’s a start or relief appearance.

“It’s something I’ve worked on over the last handful of days to get ready as quick as I could get ready,” Swanson said. “I felt like I made that adjustment (to the bullpen) pretty well, but definitely being in the starting role right now is what I’m most comfortable with.”

Meanwhile, Servais said his hope is for LeBlanc to resume throwing activities in the next few weeks before eventually probably pitching on a minor league rehab assignment.

“We’ll have to wait and see how he progresses and heals up, but I’m hoping in three weeks he’ll be tossing the ball and go from there,” Servais said.

LeBlanc said Saturday afternoon he would make sure he was healthy before resuming normal routines, but wanted to return to the starting rotation as quickly as possible.

“We’ve got a lot of season left to play,” Servais said. “I know guys get all frustrated, and I show them the calendar, like, ‘Look at all of this. We have a lot of ballgames to go.’ So, we’ll get him back.”

David Freitas during the game. The Tacoma Rainers played the Albuquerque Isotopes in a baseball game at Cheney Stadium in Tacoma, Wash., on Friday, April 12, 2019. Joshua Bessex


The Mariners made their third trade of the regular season Sunday, acquiring minor-league pitcher Sal Biasi from the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for catcher David Freitas.

Biasi, a 23-year-old left-hander, has thrown three scoreless innings for Single-A Wisconsin this season in three relief appearances. He has appeared in 49 minor league games, primarily as a reliever, since he was drafted in the 11th round by Kansas City in 2017 out of Penn State. He has a 3.26 career ERA.

Freitas, 30, appeared in one game with the Mariners this season before he was optioned to Tacoma. He hit .278 with two doubles and five RBIs in six games with the Rainiers before the trade.

Freitas appeared in 36 games for Seattle last season, hitting .218 with eight doubles, one home run and five RBIs. He was claimed off waivers by the Mariners from Atlanta in 2017.