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Out of Right Field: Trader Jerry DiPoto strikes again for Mariners

UPDATED: Sun., May 27, 2018, 6:55 p.m.

In this Nov. 9, 2016, file photo, Seattle Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto talks to the media during baseball’s annual general managers meeting in Scottsdale, Ariz. (Ross D. Franklin / AP)
In this Nov. 9, 2016, file photo, Seattle Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto talks to the media during baseball’s annual general managers meeting in Scottsdale, Ariz. (Ross D. Franklin / AP)

There’s a reason they call him “Trader Jerry.”

Seattle Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto made perhaps the most significant move of the 2018 Major League Baseball season to date, acquiring All-Star closer Alex Colome and veteran outfielder Denard Span from the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday in exchange for a pair of minor league right-handers, Andrew Moore and Tommy Romero.

“Denard Span’s skill set fits our team quite well,” Dipoto said. “And the impact we felt like we were getting in Alex Colome trumps what we thought we could get in the starting pitching market, while leaving ourselves some wiggle room that if a starter or something otherwise is needed as we get (further) into the season, we still aren’t entirely cut off. We have the ability to go for it if we can.”

It was the ninth deal Dipoto made with Tampa Bay since he joined the Mariners on Sept. 28, 2015.

“That’s what we do,” Dipoto joked. “We sit and think of the next trade we are going to do with the Rays.”

The Mariners entered the weekend with a 30-20 record, 2 1/2 games ahead (yes, ahead) of the Los Angeles Angels for the American League’s second and final wild-card berth. This despite six starting position players having spent time on the disabled list, plus the 80-game suspension of All-Star second baseman Robinson Cano for violating Major League Baseball’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs.

Mariners manager Scott Servais said Friday’s trade should bolster the clubhouse.

“I think it’s an awesome message that (despite) everything we’ve dealt with in the last eight to 10 days here, that we’re all in on this season,” Servais said. “That even though we had a setback with Robbie and the injury and suspension, it’s not going to derail us. Our eyes are set on the goal and that’s getting to the playoffs and I think this helps us.”

Dipoto indicated the Mariners could use Colome, a 29-year-old right-hander who led the A.L. with 47 saves last season, in a jack-of-all-innings manner similar to how the Cleveland Indians employ Andrew Miller. In 23 appearances this season, Colome is 2-5 with a 4.15 ERA and 11 saves.

Servais said Span will spend most of his time in left field, which means Ben Gamel will move into a backup role. Span, 34, is batting .238 with four home runs and 28 RBIs in 43 games, with six stolen bases and a .364 on-base percentage.

“Denard Span is going to play,” Servais said. “He gets on base. He knows what he’s doing in the batter’s box. And … he’s been on a few playoff teams.”

The Mariners are attempting to end the longest postseason drought in the four major professional sports. They haven’t been to the playoffs since 2001 – the rookie season of recently semiretired Ichiro Suzuki.

Trader Jerry’s latest move showed they’re serious about ending that drought.

Pitching

Felix Hernandez allowed four runs in Thursday’s start in Oakland, all in the first inning, as the M’s had their five-game winning streak snapped with a 4-3 defeat.

King Felix has been more like the court jester in the opening inning this season, with a woeful 12.27 ERA.

“Every five days I’m here talking with you guys, and it’s the same story,” Hernandez told reporters after the game. “Today was frustrating. I give up four runs and stayed there for six innings, retired the last 16 out of 17, with the same stuff that I got in the first inning. I don’t know what’s going on in the first.”

Root Sports Northwest analyst Bill Krueger, a former Mariners pitcher, said Hernandez might need to take his bullpen sessions between starts more seriously. Studio host Angie Mentink suggested the M’s might follow the Rays’ lead and start a reliever for an inning or two, but Krueger and Servais shook off that idea.

“It’s not something I think would work for our club,” Servais said. “I don’t think it’s a bad strategy in certain senses. It works for Tampa. … I don’t think it’s the best thing for our team.”

The reason? Servais said he thought the strategy would be difficult for a team with a veteran starting staff that’s used to a routine.

“(The Rays) have young kids, they were struggling to find starting pitching, they’re trying to get matchups. I get all that. It makes a ton of sense as far as the numbers and data and what’s behind it and the lineups you’re facing and all that other stuff,” Servais said. “But more important, there is this thing called the human element and I think teams are all built differently.”

Injury report

Dee Gordon hardly had time to get reacclimated to second base before he went on the 10-day disabled list with a broken right big toe.

But the former Gold Glove Award winner at second, who was converted into a center fielder after the Mariners acquired him in the offseason, took some grounders before Friday’s game and might be back Thursday when he’s eligible to come off the DL.

“It’s calmed down, which is exactly what we were hoping would happen,” Servais said. “We needed to give it some time. Originally, I thought it would be only about 10 days. Everybody said I’m crazy. I still think it’s going to be the 10-day period and you can still call me crazy, but I think that’s what we’re looking at.”

On deck

After wrapping up their series against Minnesota on Sunday, the Mariners have four games against Texas and three against Tampa Bay, all at Safeco Field.

That’s a 10-game homestand against opponents with sub-.500 records, which means it’s time to make hay.


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