ARLINGTON, Texas — The screams of “Julio! Julio!” filled the air of Globe Life Field as the Mariners’ man-child of a rookie jogged on to the field for pregame workout.
“Julio! Over here!”
No, the screams weren’t from manager Scott Servais and president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto though it’s difficult to know who was more happy about seeing Rodriguez on the field preparing to play in Friday night’s game vs. the Rangers — the fans hollering for his attention or the Mariners’ two leaders.
“We’ve got Julio back in the lineup tonight, and we are excited about that,” Servais said. “It’s probably about as healthy as we’ve been at any point in the season.”
Indeed, the last time Rodriguez, Ty France and Mitch Haniger all played in the same game was on April 29 vs. the Marlins in Miami. Haniger had returned from missing 12 days after testing positive for COVID-19. In his first plate appearance of that game, he suffered a severe high ankle sprain that kept him out 87 games.
“It’s exciting just to know that you’ve got guys that are as close to full strength as you can be in August and we’ve got guys on our bench that have done a great job for us and helped out,” Servais said. “We can mix and match and we’ll give guys a day off here and there as we get going down the stretch. We need to try to keep guys fresh because you want them firing on all cylinders here as we play these really meaningful games over the last month and a half.”
Wearing the promotional neon green tank top with a cartoon pic of Eugenio Suarez and the words, “Good Vibes Only,” Rodriguez was giddy about being able to play again.
“I’m just happy I’m able to be in the lineup,” he said pregame. “I’m good. I feel like I’m ready to go and just keep driving with the team and helping them win, helping in any way I can.”
Rodriguez has played in just five of the Mariners’ 20 games since the All-Star break, dealing with a left wrist issue that was aggravated by the home run derby and getting hit on the right wrist by Rafael Montero on July 30, which forced him to the injured list.
“I don’t want to miss games,” he said. “I want to be on the field. If it was my choice, I’d never miss a game.”
He hated missing the two series vs. the Yankees. The spotlight of playing in and against New York is something he relishes.
“Not being able to play in that atmosphere, it was kind of tough,” he said. “But to see the guys get that W in the series was really cool.”
Rodriguez also got to have a pregame conversation with Aaron Judge, exchanging autographed bats. They first interacted at the All-Star Game.
“He is a really, really nice guy,” Rodriguez said. “I feel like he’s somebody that you really want to learn from. And it was really cool, just kind of being able to talk to him and learn some stuff from him.”
So what advice did Judge offer?
“I’m gonna keep that for me,” Rodriguez said with a smile. “I’ll keep that private. I can tell you that I’ve met him, but I will keep that quiet.”
Giles designated for assignment
The Mariners designated veteran reliever Ken Giles for assignment on Friday afternoon. He had been pitching on a rehab assignment with Class AAA Tacoma, working his way back from a shoulder strain.
Giles didn’t really have a role in the Mariners bullpen despite his track record of success.
“With the contributions we’ve gotten from a number of guys that I can honestly say we weren’t maybe counting on, guys who have stepped up and did a great job, our bullpen is kind of at full strength right now,” Servais said. “Opportunity-wise, it’s maybe not there.”
With Giles nearing the end of his rehab assignment, the Mariners were going to be forced into making a decision to put him on the MLB roster or designate him.
“The opportunity that Ken was looking for and in having conversations with him and his agent and Jerry and the front office, we understood that he wants to go pitch in the big leagues and we just don’t have that opportunity right now,” Servais said.
The Mariners signed Giles, 31, to a two-year, $7 million contract before the 2021 season, knowing that he was recovering from Tommy John surgery. He sat out all of last season and reported to spring training healthy. But a finger strain in his second Cactus League outing caused him to miss the first 68 games of the season.
He returned on June 20 and made five appearances, pitching a total of 4 1/3 innings. He suffered the shoulder strain during an outing on July 8.
“It’s a serious injury he was trying to come back from and it was a little bit of a gamble on our side that we could get him back and going,” Servais said. “You never know how things are going to work out when you’re going into the season.”
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