For the first half of the season, Marco Gonzales was a pain in the neck for opposing batters.
But recently, it’s a pain in his neck that’s kept Gonzales sidelined.
The left-hander has missed his past two starts but threw a 35-pitch session off the mound last Friday and is expected to come off the disabled list Tuesday to start the series opener against the San Diego Padres at Safeco Field.
“I was dealing with some fatigue, some neck aches, some things I was battling through and trying to push through, hoping it would get better,” Gonzales told MLB.com. “So, putting that aside, I think there’s not going to be anything stopping me from returning to what I was doing before.”
Gonzales was 12-5 with a 3.37 ERA through his first 21 starts this season. But in August he was 0-4 with a 10.35 ERA in four appearances.
“I want to see the same guy we saw in June and July,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “He was cruising. He does feel fine physically and is throwing all his pitches in the bullpen. He probably won’t go as long. First time out, you’re probably looking at 75 pitches or something like that. Again, we just want to see him healthy, executing pitches and feeling good about things.”
Gonzales admitted being on the DL for the past 10 days while his teammates have tried to stay in the American League playoff race has been frustrating. The Mariners have dropped 7 1 /2 games behind Oakland in the chase for the league’s second and final wild-card berth.
“Those are obviously very important starts,” he told MLB.com. “The opponents are very important that we’re going to be facing, so I won’t take it lightly. I’ve been anxious and champing at the bit the past couple weeks as I’ve been waiting to get back out there.”
The Padres are scheduled to start right-hander Bryan Mitchell (1-3, 6.58 ERA) in the opener of the two-game series. Mitchell will be making his second start since missing three months with a right elbow impingement. In his first appearance off the DL on Sept. 3, Mitchell allowed one run and two hits in five innings of a 6-2 victory against Arizona.
“I’m just trying to take things one start at a time,” Mitchell told MLB.com. “I know nothing’s guaranteed at this point. But it’s definitely a good stepping stone moving forward. (The Arizona game) felt really good after the way the season’s gone for me. I needed that one.”
With off days and a six-man rotation, Mitchell has had plenty of rest since his last start.
“If they have six or seven days off in between, it’s not going to hurt them at this point in the season,” Padres manager Andy Green said. “I don’t think we have a huge plan to alter this rotation. (Mitchell) did a solid job (against Arizona), and we want him to continue to build off it.”
Neither Mitchell nor Gonzales (12-9, 4.32) has ever faced Tuesday’s opponent before.
The Padres swept a two-game series between the teams in late August in San Diego, winning 2-1 and 8-3.
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