The moves keep coming as the Mariners try to patch together an injury-depleted pitching staff.
Lefty reliever Zac Curtis was recalled from Double-A Arkansas prior to Thursday’s series opener against Toronto at the Rogers Centre. The Mariners cleared space by optioning right-handed reliever Dan Altavilla to Triple-A Tacoma.
“Get a fresh arm,” manager Scott Servais said prior to the game. “Danny pitched back-to-back days. I like some of the things that Danny’s doing. I think he’s moving in the right direction.
“As you can tell, we’re going to be very fluid as we go through stuff with our starting rotation. We’ll try to keep as many fresh arms down there (in the bullpen) as possible.”
The Mariners also bolstered their organizational depth by acquiring right-hander Casey Lawrence from Toronto in a waiver claim. Lawrence was assigned to Tacoma.
Lawrence, 29, was designated for assignment May 8 by the Blue Jays after going 0-3 with an 8.78 ERA in four appearances, including two starts, but was 1-0 with an 0.90 ERA in three starts at Triple-A Buffalo.
The Mariners cleared space for Lawrence on their 40-man roster by shifting injured right-handed reliever Evan Scribner to the 60-day disabled list.
Scribner, 31, hasn’t pitched since April 25 because of a flexor bundle strain in his elbow. He allowed nine runs and 13 hits in 7 1/3 innings over eight games before being placed on the disabled list.
Curtis, 24, came to the Mariners last November in the big trade with Arizona that also netted shortstop Jean Segura and outfielder Mitch Haniger for pitcher Taijuan Walker and infielder Ketel Marte.
While he made 21 big-league appearances last season, Curtis opened this year at Arkansas, where he was 0-1 with three saves and a 3.21 ERA in 10 appearances.
“He’s throwing well,” Servais said. “He didn’t have a good spring training in coming over to a new organization. He struggled command-wise and lost his release point.”
Curtis allowed six runs in 1 1/3 innings in two spring outings.
“We’ll give him an opportunity,” Servais said. “He has been in the big leagues before.”
Altavilla, 24, heads back to the Rainiers after allowing two runs and four hits in three innings over three appearances following a May 6 recall. He opened the season in the big leagues and has a 6.97 ERA overall in 12 games.
The Mariners’ two Cuban defectors — outfielder Guillermo Heredia and left-handed pitcher Ariel Miranda — had visa problems Wednesday that prevented them from entering Canada with the rest of the Mariners’ traveling party.
Club officials characterized the problems as minor, although Heredia and Miranda were expected to arrive at the Rogers Centre until midway through Thursday’s game.
“They’re on a plane now,” Servais said in mid-afternoon. “They’re en route. They’ll probably land around game time. So Heredia will be available tonight.”
That meant the Mariners opened the game with a 23-man roster, although Miranda isn’t play prior to his scheduled to start in Sunday’s series finale.
Second baseman Robinson Cano was a late lineup scratch because of renewed soreness in his right quadriceps muscle.
With Taylor Motter already replacing visa-delayed Guillermo Heredia in left field, the Mariners replaced Cano with Mike Freeman.
Cano suffered the injury Tuesday in Philadelphia and left the game in the fourth inning. He returned Wednesday to the lineup, and went 4-for-5, but said he aggravated the injury on a ground out to first in the ninth inning.
Servais remains noncommittal on a starting pitcher for Saturday’s game as the Mariners sift through possibilities while four members of their rotation are on the disabled list.
Possibilities include two starting pitchers currently serving as long relievers: lefty Dillon Overton and just-promoted righty Sam Gaviglio. Overton lasted 3 1/3 innings last Sunday in a start against Texas
“We’ll see how the long guys are used in the next couple of days,” Servais said. “One of those guys could take the start on Saturday or we could call somebody up.”
Servais also said the rotation’s injury problems puts a premium on having fresh relievers — which partially explains Thursday’s move to replace Altavilla with Curtis.
“You may not see the game managed in the traditional fashion,” Servais said. “You might see guys get pulled in the fourth inning. If you’re running those guys in there, you need to be fresh in the bullpen.
“Hopefully, we can get it to a point where the game is tied or we have a lead. We do have a core in our bullpen that has been very good. The late-inning guys have done a really nice job. You’re just hoping you can get to them.
“Our offense has done enough recently that we’ve been able to get to them.”
Three things to note heading into Friday’s pitching matchup between right-hander Christian Bergman and Toronto right-hander Joe Biagini:
***Bergman has never faced the Blue Jays. He is making his first start for the Mariners. He started the season at Tacoma but pitched 3 2/3 innings of relief (allowing one run) in last Sunday’s victory over Texas.
***Biagini is making his second straight start after 74 relief appearances over the last two seasons. He made three scoreless appearances, covering 3 2/3 innings, last season against the Mariners.
***Only two current Mariners have ever faced Biagini. Taylor Motter was 0-for-2, and Cano grounded out to second in his only at-bat.
Plans called for injured reliever Steve Cishek to begin a second rehab assignment Thursday at Triple-A Tacoma in his recovery from October surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left hip.
He previously made five rehab appearances at Arkansas and Tacoma from April 17 to May 3 before getting recalled for further evaluation. Rehab assignments for pitchers are limited to 30 days.
Tentative plans call for Cishek to make two appearances at Tacoma and, if all goes well, rejoin the big-league roster on next week’s homestand.
Lefty James Paxton received medical clearance to begin throwing activities in his recovery from a strained left forearm. He hasn’t pitched since May 2. Paxton was 3-0 with a 1.43 ERA in six starts prior to his injury…outfielder Mitch Haniger could be cleared this weekend to begin baseball activities in his recovery from a strained right oblique muscle. He was batting .342 with four homers and 16 RBIs in 21 games when he suffered the injury April 25 in Detroit.
It was 33 years ago Friday — May 12, 1984 — that rookie first baseman Alvin Davis suffered a broken nose while attempting to field a grounder hit by Steve Kemp in the fifth inning at Yankee Stadium in New York.
Davis was batting .347 at the time with nine homers and 28 RBIs in 28 games. He missed five games before returning to the lineup.
The Mariners won the game 5-0 behind a six-hit shutout by Jim Beattie.
Davis finished the season with a .287 average, 27 homers and 116 RBIs in 152 games and was a runaway choice as the American League’s Rookie of the Year. Teammate Mark Langston finished second in the balloting.
The Mariners and Blue Jays continue their four-game weekend series at 4:07 p.m. Pacific time Friday at the Rogers Centre. Right-hander Christian Bergman (0-0, 2.45) will oppose Toronto righty Joe Biagini (0-1, 2.78).
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).
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners