Rookie first baseman Dan Vogelbach’s latest opportunity ended Tuesday in another round of disappointment and for the same reason: A bat that didn’t play to expectations.
The Mariners optioned Vogelbach to Tacoma prior to their series opener against the Los Angeles Angels at Safeco Field. It was one of series of moves as the Mariners seek to arrest a disappointing season.
The Mariners also selected the contracts of right-handed relievers Jean Machi and Emilio Pagan from Tacoma after designating reliever Casey Fien for assignment.
“We decided it would be best to go back to 13 pitchers,” manager Scott Servais said. “We have juggled the roster and the pitching staff quite a bit in the first month. Hopefully, we can settle it down.”
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To clear space on the 40-man roster, the Mariners also shifted utilityman Shawn O’Malley to the 60-day disabled list because of tendinitis in his right shoulder, which surfaced in late March during his recovery from an appendectomy.
Machi, 35, is four-year veteran who signed a minor-league deal on Jan. 22 as a free agent. He was 1-0 with four saves in eight games at Tacoma and did not allow a run in eight innings.
“Machi has experience,” Servais said. “He’s been on World Series teams. He’s got good secondary pitches, and he’s been through the wars. He should add some stability down in the bullpen.”
Machi had a 2.58 ERA in 71 games in 2014 for San Francisco but struggled the following year and spent last season in the minors.
Pagan, 25 had a 3.27 ERA in six games for the Rainiers. He was a 10th round pick in the 2013 MLB Draft who participated this spring in the World Baseball Classic.
“He’s a young guy who we like,” Servais said. “He was a WBC guy with Puerto Rico. We didn’t see him a ton in spring training. He just had a couple of outings late. Good arm. Good breaking ball.”
Fien, 33, allowed 10 runs in six innings over six appearances in two brief big-league tours. He was previously removed April 12 from the 40-man roster and outrighted to Tacoma after clearing waivers.
Vogelbach was just 2-for-14 in six games following his April 23 recall from Tacoma after failing to make the club in spring training. His recent opportunity surfaced as the Mariners sought an alternative to slumping Danny Valencia.
After getting hits in his first two games, Vogelbach went into an 0-for-8 skid that included three strikeouts and two weak double-play grounders.
“My timing is off a little bit,” Vogelbach said after Sunday’s loss at Cleveland. “I need to stay through the ball more and stay through the middle. I’m taking my walks. I’m still seeing pitches. I’m just not hitting the pitches.”
That same problem cost Vogelbach a spot on the Mariners’ roster when the season started. When his swing went south in spring training, in tandem with some defensive difficulties, he was optioned to Tacoma.
“Vogie can hit,” Servais said. “We’ll get him back in Tacoma, but he’ll be back. He’ll be a part of our future here. I feel very strongly about that. But for where we’re at right now, this is the best move to make.”
BACK TO VALENCIA
One immediate beneficiary of Tuesday’s moves is Valencia, who is ticketed for another extended look at first base after batting just .188 with one homer and five RBIs through his first 22 games.
“Danny does have a track record,” Servais said. “He’s proven he can hit in this league. We’re going to run him out there. He’s done a nice job defensively for us. We’ll get (Taylor) Motter in there some as well.”
Valencia, 32, is an eight-year veteran who batted .287 last season in 130 games at Oakland with 17 homers and 51 RBIs. The Mariners acquired him in a Nov. 12 trade for minor-league pitcher Paul Blackburn.
Motter cooled significantly after a hot start while replacing an injured Jean Segura at shortstop. Motter is 5-for-32 in his last nine games with a .206 on-base percentage. Overall, he is batting .225 with five homers and 13 RBIs in 22 games.
DE JONG STAYS IN ROTATION
One bad start won’t knock rookie right-hander Chase De Jong out of rotation. Tentative plans have De Jong in line to make three more starts, which could bridge the gap to Felix Hernandez’s return from the disabled list.
“Chase will start again,” Servais confirmed. “I think he realizes it’s a little bit different going into a start than just coming out of the bullpen. Sometimes, you have too much time to think about it.”
De Jong gave up six runs and nine hits in just 2 1/3 innings Sunday in a 12-4 loss at Cleveland. It was his first career big-league start after making two relief appearances.
“I think he got away from pitching his game,” Servais said, “which is to move the fastball around. He didn’t gave good fastball command (against Cleveland), and he needs that good command with his stuff.
“So we’ll give him another shot.”
If plans hold, and De Jong makes three more starts, that would carry the Mariners to May 23.
That roughly lines up with Hernandez’s anticipated returned. Club officials said he was expected to miss three-to-four weeks after being diagnosed with bursitis in his shoulder following an April 25 start at Detroit.
Rehabbing reliever Steve Cishek could be a step closer to returning to active duty after ironing out some mechanical flaws in a bullpen workout early Tuesday under the observation of pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. at Safeco Field.
“It was very productive,” Servais said. “Mel noticed a couple of things in his delivery that clicked right away when he made Steve aware of it. The ball was coming out better.”
Cishek is recovering from October surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left hip. He labored at times during five rehab appearances from a lack of command and sharpness rather than any issue connected to his hip.
Tentative plans call for Cishek to make at least one rehab appearance.
Designated hitter Nelson Cruz is the only Mariner among the top 50 players who are consistently hitting the ball hard in the latest stats compiled by Inside Edge, a scouting and information service.
Cruz ranks 37th with a hard-hit rate of 20.7 percent as determined by a video review on all balls in play. Washington first baseman Ryan Zimmerman ranks first at 29.2 percent, followed by Colorado outfielder Charlie Blackmon at 27.8 percent.
Detroit third baseman Nick Castellanos ranks third and leads all American League players at 27.6 percent. Cruz ranks just ahead of former Mariners first baseman Justin Smoak, now with Toronto, at 20.5 percent.
Three things to note heading into Wednesday’s pitching matchup between right-handers Hisashi Iwakuma and LA’s Ricky Nolasco:
***Iwakuma is 9-5 with a 2.76 ERA in 20 career games against the Angels and was positioned for a victory April 9 before the Mariners blew a six-run lead in the ninth inning at Anaheim. Nolasco is 1-4 with a 4.33 ERA in six career starts against the Mariners.
***The Angels’ big guns have not fared well against Iwakuma. Mike Trout is 9-for-50 (.180) with one homer in two RBIs, while Albert Pujols is 8-for-57 (.140) with two homers and seven RBIs. Yunel Escobar is 8-for-23 (.348).
***Robinson Cano is 6-for-15 (.400) with two homers in his career against Nolasco. Nelson Cruz is just 4-for-18 (.222) but three of the hits are homers. Jean Segura is 4-for-12 (.333).
Two center fielders known more for their speed and defense share the organization’s lead in hits with 33.
Double-A Arkansas’ Ian Miller is batting .359 through 22 games at 33-for-92. A 14th-round pick in 2013, he batted .253 last season while stealing 49 bases in 114 games at Double-A Jackson.
Hi-A Modesto’s Braden Bishop is batting .337 through 24 games at 33-for-98. He was a third-round pick in 2015 who batted a combined .273 last season in 104 games while stealing 36 bases at Lo-A Clinton and Hi-A Bakersfield.
Entering Tuesday, Cruz ranked third in the organization with 28 hits. Among minor-league players, Modesto utilityman Gianfranco Wawoe ranked third with 27 hits.
Former Mariners pitcher Mark Langston, who is now an Angels broadcaster, threw out the ceremonial first pitch as part of the Mariners’ ongoing celebration of their 40th anniversary season. Langston, now 56, was 74-67 for the Mariners from 1984-89…it was six years ago Wednesday (May 3, 2011) that the Mariners signed a left-handed pitcher Roenis Elias, who had defected from Cuba…the Mariners, prior to Tuesday, had used 33 players this season, which trails only the two Los Angeles clubs. The Dodgers and Angels had each used 34. Machi and Pagan are likely to soon push the Mariners to 35.
It was 25 years ago Tuesday — May 3, 1992 — that Edgar Martinez tied what remains a club record by hitting two triples in an 8-6 loss at Baltimore. Martinez finished his 22-year career with 15 triples.
Fourteen different players share the club record of hitting two triples in a game. No Mariner has ever done it more than once. The most recent to achieve the feat was Kyle Seager on June 2, 2014 in a 10-2 victory at Yankee Stadium.
The others to do it: Larry Cox, Spike Owen, Steve Henderson, Al Cowens, Danny Tartabull, Phil Bradley, Dave Valle, Joey Cora, Mark McLemore, Ichiro Suzuki, Carlos Guillen and Brad Miller.
The Mariners and Angels continue their three-game series at 7:10 p.m. Wednesday at Safeco Field when right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma (0-2 with a 4.15 ERA) opposes Los Angeles righty Ricky Nolasco (0-0, 3.60).
The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest and heard on 710 ESPN and the Mariners Radio Network, including mariners.com (for subscribers to MLB.tv).
The series concludes Thursday night before the Texas Rangers arrive Friday to start a three-game weekend series.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners