HOUSTON — With their rotation starting to stabilize, the Mariners decided they no longer needed an extra arm in the bullpen and optioned lefty reliever David Rollins to Triple-A Tacoma prior to Tuesday’s game against the Astros at Minute Maid Park.
The Mariners replaced Rollins by promoting outfielder Daniel Robertson from the Rainiers, which means they are now operating with a standard four-player bench.
"He’s a high-energy guy," manager Scott Servais said. "He’s obviously a good defender, and a right-handed bat. It’s not power, but he puts the bat on the ball. Runs the bases."
To clear space for Robertson on their 40-man roster, the Mariners transferred right-handed pitcher Adrian Sampson to the 60-day disabled list. He recently suffered a tear to the flexor bundle in his elbow.
Robertson, 30, was batting .262 at Tacoma with a .327 on-base percentage in 73 games. He batted .274 in 107 big-league games over parts of the last two seasons with Texas and the Los Angeles Angels.
The Mariners acquired Robertson from the Angels in a Nov. 6, 2015 waiver claim and retained him in December when he cleared waivers by assigning him to Tacoma.
"The first time with a new team is always special," Robertson said. "This will be my third different one, but it’s equally special.
"You spend time in Triple-A with some guys who have never made it, and you try to give them all of the information that you can. Then when you get the call-up, you feel it all over again."
Rollins, 26, did not allow a run in four innings over four appearances in two brief big-league stints. He returns to Tacoma, where he has a 2.05 ERA in 24 games.
"I certainly think he’s a major-league pitcher," Servais said. "I think he help us, and I think he will at some point again this year. I think he’ll be back and be a part of our bullpen."
RUNNING INTO OUTS
Leonys Martin’s ill-conceived dash for the plate in Monday’s loss to Houston points to a continuing problem; the Mariners have run into 33 outs on the bases, which ranks fifth in the majors, according to HighHeatStats.com.
The Mariners rank a little better — seventh worst — if ranked by percentages, which points to the fact they rank 11th among the 30 clubs in terms of getting runners on base. Their 33 outs have come from 1,073 runners or 3.1 percent.
Oddly, perhaps, the stats say American League West-leading Texas runs the bases worse than any other club. The Rangers lead the majors with 38 outs on the bases and with a 3.6-percent ratio on base-running outs.
The Mariners reached agreement with Oklahoma State shortstop Donnie Walton, their fifth-round pick last month in the MLB Draft, for a below-slot bonus of $125,000.
The slot price for Walton, as the 147th pick, was $379,000, but he had limited negotiating leverage as a senior.
The Mariners have now signed their top 15 picks and 26 of their 40 selections.
Three of the organization’s prospects were honored as weekly award winners in their league for June 27 to July 3:
***Double-A Jackson right-hander Brett Ash, 25, was picked as Southern League pitcher of the week after winning two starts while giving up one run in 13 2/3 innings. He is 9-3 overall with a 3.46 ERA in 15 games.
***Lo-A Clinton infielder Conner Hale, 23, was chosen as the Midwest League player of the week after going 12-for-23 with homers and seven RBIs. He is batting .292 overall in 63 games with six homers and 32 RBIs.
***Short-A Everett lefty Elliot Surrey, 22, is the Northwest League’s pitcher of the week after allowing just one hit in six scoreless innings over three relief appearances. He has yet to allow a run this season in 10 2/3 innings in six games.
The Mariners signed Ash as a non-drafted free agent on July 1, 2014. Hale was a ninth-round pick in 2015 from Louisiana State. Surrey was a 26th-round pick in last month’s draft from Cal-Irvine.
Short-A Everett center fielder Kyle Lewis hit his first professional homer Monday in a 7-5 loss to Eugene (Cubs). Lewis, 20, was the Mariners’ first-round pick (No. 11 overall) last month in the MLB Draft.
After getting off to a slow start, Lewis is batting .308 in his last 10 games with a .413 on-base percentage and a .538 slugging percentage. He is He is 12-for-39 in that span with six extra-base hits and 10 RBIs.
LOOKING BACK I
It was 20 years ago Wednesday — July 6, 1996 — that Edgar Martinez hit three homers in a game for the first time in his career and led the Mariners to a 9-5 victory at Texas.
The first two homers came against Texas starter Kevin Gross, while the third came against reliever Matt Whiteside. Alex Rodriguez also hit a grand slam in the game.
Martinez also hit three homers in a game on May 18, 1999 in a 10-1 victory over Minnesota at the Kingdome.
A side note: Martinez joined the group for early batting practice prior to Tuesday’s game at Minute Maid Park and drove a Scott Servais pitch over the Crawford Boxes beyond the left-field wall.
"Same exact guy," Servais said. "The finish. The bat. The whole thing."
LOOKING BACK II
It was 18 years ago Wednesday — July 6, 1998 — that Ken Griffey Jr. won the second of his three Home Run Derby crowns when he hit 19 at Coors Field in Denver.
Griffey also won the Derby in 1994 at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, and in 1999 at Fenway Park in Boston.
Felix Hernandez is scheduled to throw three 15-pitch simulated innings Wednesday as the next step in his recovery from a strained right calf muscle. If all goes well, he will depart on a minor-league rehab assignment…Reliever Nick Vincent began throwing Monday in his recovery from a muscle strain in his middle back. That’s the first step in a progression that will include throwing from a mound in bullpen workouts and a rehab assignment in the minor leagues. That suggests he’s unlikely to return to active duty before late July…Monday’s 2-1 loss to Houston was the eighth one-run loss for the Mariners in their last 16 losses. Four more losses in that span were by two runs…rookie reliever Edwin Diaz entered Tuesday with 29 strikeouts in 15 1/3 innings for a rate of 17.02 per nine innings. That leads all pitchers who have made at least 14 appearances. Yankees right-hander Dellin Betances was second at 16.24.
The Mariners and Astros conclude their three-game series at 5:10 p.m. Pacific time Wednesday at Minute Maid Park. Left-hander Wade LeBlanc (1-0 with a 1.50 ERA) will face Houston right-hander Mike Fiers (6-3, 4.12).
The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest and heard on 710 ESPN.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners