Posted on April 26, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine

Seattle Mariners Felix Hernandez

Image via SeattleTimes.com

The last place Seattle Mariners suffered two major losses Wednesday before they even took the field. The Mariners have placed both starting pitcher Felix Hernandez and right fielder Mitch Haniger on the DL. Hernandez has shoulder inflammation while Haniger has been diagnosed with a strained oblique. The injuries will make it that much harder for the Mariners to climb out of the AL West basement after starting the season 8-13.

Hernandez was pulled from Tuesday’s start against the Tigers after just two innings of work. He was complaining of soreness and fatigue in his shoulder and was immediately sent back to Seattle to undergo an MRI on Wednesday.

“It’s like dead arm as much as anything. He didn’t have pain or anything like that. It’s just nothing was coming out and he didn’t feel good,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said about Hernandez after Tuesday’s game. “Anytime it’s a pitcher and shoulder, it’s a concern.”

The Mariners haven’t given an exact timeline for his return, but a source close to the team indicates that King Felix will be out of action for at least two or three weeks, making it unlikely that he rejoins Seattle’s rotation before the end of May.

Seattle began the season with what appeared to be a formidable five-man starting rotation. But things haven’t gone according to plan. Lefty Drew Smyly was lost to injury late in the spring and isn’t likely to return until later this summer. Ariel Miranda has done a solid job of filling in, but no one in Seattle’s rotation has stood out this year aside from James Paxton, who began the season with 21 scoreless innings over his first three starts.

Now the Mariners have to find a replacement while Hernandez is on the DL. Chase De Jong, Dillon Overton, and Casey Fien have all been called up as part of a huge roster shakeup. It stands to reason that one of them will fill the vacancy left by Hernandez. De Jong had one rough outing and one impressive outing of the bullpen earlier this year, as well as two solid starts in triple-A, so he may be Seattle’s best option at this point.

Haniger, meanwhile, left the 3rd inning of Tuesday’s game and has been diagnosed with an oblique strain, causing the Mariners to lose their most productive hitter. Heading into the season, Haniger was an overlooked rookie who was part of the trade that gave the Mariners Jean Segura over the winter. However, through the first three weeks of the season, he’s hit .338 with four home runs and seven doubles, giving him a team-high OPS of 1.042. He’s been a huge reason why the Mariners entered Wednesday second in the American League in runs scored.

Seattle doesn’t have an obvious replacement in right field after cutting ties with Leonys Martin earlier this week. Ben Gamel, who was called up to replace Haniger on the roster, is a natural right fielder but has little track record of success in the big leagues. Danny Valencia could see time in right field after starting 36 games there for the A’s last year. Taylor Motter, who has hit five home runs this season, is another option, although he has just two career starts in right field.

Regardless of who ends up stepping in for Hernandez and Haniger, it’s two massive losses for a team that couldn’t afford to suffer any more injuries. Seattle began the season with a lot of optimism, but the Mariners now have an awful lot of work to do just to get back to .500. If Hernandez and Haniger aren’t quick to return, by the time they get back, the Mariners could be too far back to make any noise in 2017.

“He’s our ace. It’s hard to see that happen,” second baseman Robinson Cano said of Hernandez after Tuesday’s game. “You never want to see that happen, not just to your ace but anybody in here. Losing two of your best players is hard. But we’re going to deal with that. It’s a game. We’ve got to keep battling with what we have here. I just hope it’s nothing major.”

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