Seattle Mariners manager Scott Servais was looking for a productive five or six innings from right-hander Erik Swanson, who made his first major league start Wednesday afternoon against the Cleveland Indians.
Swanson, the No. 9 prospect in Seattle’s organization, certainly delivered.
The 25-year-old rookie, who came to Seattle this offseason in the James Paxton deal with the New York Yankees, worked six innings against the Indians at T-Mobile Park, giving up just one run.
Swanson worked 1-2-3 innings in the first, third, fourth and sixth, and never faced more than four batters in any frame. He allowed just one run on two hits, while striking out five and walking none. He threw 81 pitches.
The only meaningful mistake Swanson made came in the fifth when Jake Bauers cranked a 3-2 fastball 406 feet over the fence in center field. The only other hit Swanson allowed was a two-out single to Bauers in the second.
Swanson took over the No. 4 spot in the Mariners’ starting rotation this week in place of injured left-hander Wade LeBlanc.
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.
LeBlanc, who has offered a steady presence in Seattle’s five-man rotation, could be out four to six weeks, though Servais has said LeBlanc hopes to resume pitching activities sooner.
Swanson was recalled from Triple-A Tacoma on Sunday after a brief stay with the Rainiers.
He made his MLB debut with the Mariners last week in Kansas City, pitching two innings in relief. He allowed two earned runs on three hits, struck out four batters and walked two.
In his only start with the Rainiers this season on April 4, Swanson threw five scoreless innings, allowing six hits and no walks while striking out eight.
SOLID START FOR SHEFFIELD
Wednesday afternoon in El Paso, left-hander Justus Sheffield, the top prospect in Seattle’s organization who came over in the Paxton deal with Swanson, pitched his most productive outing of the season.
He worked through 6 2/3 innings, allowing three runs (two earned) on three hits, while striking out six and walking three. He threw 84 pitches. The Rainiers lost, 11-10, on a walk-off home run.
Sheffield is another young pitcher who could make an appearance in Seattle at some point this season.
“He’s got really good stuff, I really like the pitcher,” Servais said recently. “I like the upside he brings. But, again, and at the minor-league level, I think he’s very close to being ready to help us at this level, but you still need to be consistent.”
Some Mariners are nearing returns, but others are much further out.
Right-handed reliever Chasen Bradford (right shoulder) was placed on the 10-day IL on April 9, and Servais said he still has some soreness.
Bradford has played catch a couple of times since he was placed on the IL, Servais said, and threw with more intensity in Tuesday’s workout. He is still a few days out from throwing a bullpen session.
Right-handed reliever Sam Tuivailala is projected to return in late in May. He has been out since last summer, shortly after the Mariners acquired him from Saint Louis, recovering from a torn Achilles.
Servais said Tuivailala has had some shoulder tightness that has delayed him pitching a live batting practice recently.
Veteran third baseman Kyle Seager is still recovering from surgery on his left hand. He was placed on the 60-day IL at the end of March.
“Kyle is moving along,” Servais said. “He’s got the full range of motion, getting his strength fully back. He does not have a bat in his hand yet. When he gets a bat in the hand, we’ll see where we go from there.”
Right-hander Hunter Strickland, who was the Mariners closer to start the season, was placed on the 60-day IL on April 2 with a strained right lat. He has not yet resumed baseball activities.