It wasn’t the need for a fresh arm that prompted the Mariners’ latest bullpen move. It was the need for a healthy one.
The Mariners recalled right-hander Dan Altavilla from Triple-A Tacoma prior to Tuesday’s game at Atlanta after placing right-hander Tony Zych on the disabled list because of a strained flexor bundle in his elbow.
Altavilla, 24, returns this season for a fourth big-league tour after compiling a 1.08 ERA in 15 appearances over the last six weeks at Tacoma.
It could be a short stay.
Manager Scott Servais said right-hander David Phelps could be activated as soon as Wednesday after experiencing no day-after problems with his elbow after throwing a simulated inning prior to Monday’s game.
The move with Zych, 26, is retroactive to Aug. 20. His injury isn’t believed to be serious but more an issue of fatigue.
“When we went to carrying the extra position player (earlier in the month),” Servais said, “those guys in the bullpen are getting used and getting up more often.
“We knew that could lead to some more wear and tear on some guys, Tony was a guy we were concerned about.”
The concern stemmed from Zych’s ongoing recovery from off-season shoulder surgery, which forced him to open the season on the disabled list.
“The stuff hasn’t been coming out as crisp lately,” Servais said. “We saw some command issues a couple of outings ago. It’s probably the best thing to just give it 10 days to let it calm down and then come back from there.”
Zych evolved this season into a key setup reliever in going 6-3 with a 2.66 ERA in 45 games.
Phelps, 30, left an Aug. 6 outing in Kansas City because of what club officials termed an impingement in his elbow. He was 1-1 with a 2.57 ERA in seven outing after arriving in a July 20 trade from Miami for four minor-league players.
Altavilla was 1-1 with a 5.46 ERA in 29 previous big-league appearances while also going 1-0 with a 1.61 ERA in 19 games at Tacoma. He served as the Rainiers’ closer in recent weeks and has six saves in seven opportunities.
Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma’s recovery from a sore shoulder continues to drag along. His latest bullpen workout on Monday drew merely an “OK” assessment from Servais.
Iwakuma, 36, has encountered a series of setbacks since the injury forced him to the disabled list after a May 3 start against the Los Angeles Angels.
“He’ll probably throw another bullpen,’ Servais said. “We’re running out of time. Guys have to be able to ramp it up pretty quickly to have any chance to make an impact for us down the stretch.
“Last time, Kuma got to this point, then he got to the simulated game, we put a hitter in there, and it was like, ‘Whoa, this isn’t even close.’ It didn’t feel good.”
Club officials are far more optimistic that James Paxton and Felix Hernandez will return in September.
Hernandez began a throwing program Tuesday in his recovery from a second flareup of bursitis in his shoulder, which surfaced after a July 31 start at Texas.
Paxton is scheduled to begin throwing this week after exiting an Aug. 10 start against the Angels because of a strained left pectoral muscle.