The Seattle Mariners capped of a successful 9 game road trip that saw them win all series, facing off against the Tigers, Blue Jays, and Rays. The road trip also capped off with the first appearance of prospect Jake Fraley.
But Fraley isn’t the only top prospect who Mariners fans will get to watch this week. The team has also announced that Yusei Kikuchi will have his next start skipped, leaving an open spot in the rotation to be filled by former top prospect Justus Sheffield.
Sheffield, acquired last winter as the headliner of the James Paxton trade, entered the season as our number 1 prospect in the Mariners revamped system. He impressed early in Spring Training before being sent down to AAA Tacoma to start the season.
He did make his Mariners debut earlier this season, going 3 innings in relief against the Texas Rangers and showed many of the same struggles that plagued him in AAA Tacoma. Sheffield was demoted to AA Arkansas after a disastrous stretch in Tacoma. And then things changed.
Sheffield refined his mechanics and the results have been amazing, posting a 2.19 ERA, a 1.03 WHIP, a .218 OBA, and 85 strikeouts in 78 innings. Sheffield will make his return to Seattle against the Toronto Blue Jays.
But Sheffield’s arrival will be overshadowed by the return of a king. The Mariners announced that Felix Hernandez will return to the team for the first time since May following his recovery from a Grade 1 lat strain. In many ways, the next 6-8 starts for Felix will determine his future in the game.
Already staring his baseball mortality in the face at the age of 33, Felix has struggled mightily again in 2019. His command has gotten worse, the stuff is less effective, and the velocity isn’t coming back. The decline over the past 3 seasons has been steep and unless major changes are made, his career may be over after these starts.
It isn’t an overstatement to stress that Felix Hernandez is pitching for his career to continue after 2019. His time in Seattle is almost certainly over following this season, but without a sign of life, so to might his baseball career.
Of course, King’s Court will be back in session and even a diminished king still has the undying gratitude of his loyal subjects. The Mariners continue to find ways to intrigue us in a tough 2019 season, and a final opportunity to cheer King Felix isn’t a bad reason to head to the ballpark.