SEATTLE — The Seattle Mariners will head into the offseason with four key players needing downtime or surgery to heal injuries, including AL Rookie of the Year favorite Julio Rodríguez.
Jerry Dipoto, Seattle’s president of baseball operations, said Wednesday that Rodríguez broke his left pinkie during Game 3 of the AL Division Series against Houston. Dipoto said an exit exam this week revealed the injury to the 21-year-old All-Star, but he’s not expected to need surgery.
Also needing downtime to recover from injuries are catcher Cal Raleigh (thumb) and standout reliever Andrés Muñoz (foot), while outfielder Jesse Winker has already undergone one of two operations needed to repair injuries he dealt with during the season.
“There’s quite a few,” Dipoto said.
Rodríguez got hurt sliding headfirst into second base on a double in the eighth inning of what became an 18-inning marathon the Mariners lost 1-0 to Houston that ended their season. Rodríguez also dealt with back and wrist injuries during the season, with the lower back strain popping up late in the season and costing him time when the Mariners were pushing for a postseason spot.
“He just needs to have some downtime, get his body feeling good again,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said. “He went through a lot. He’s never played this much baseball, certainly at this level, the intensity and the emotional toll that it takes on you when you go through a season like that.”
Raleigh played the final month of the season with a torn ligament in his left thumb, a painful injury that never got worse but never improved. Raleigh is expected to see a hand specialist in the coming days to determine if surgery will be needed.
Raleigh was a huge piece of Seattle’s run to the postseason, including the home run on Sept. 30 that clinched its first playoff berth since 2001 and another long ball in Game 1 of the wild-card series in Toronto.
“The physical and emotional toughness that he showed in the final six weeks of this season when he was playing a lot, and especially in September when he was playing through a pretty painful injury,” Dipoto said. “Especially when you catch baseballs that are flying at very high speeds with unpredictable movement. I can’t say enough about the job that Cal did and gutted his way through it and had huge moments for us.”
There was some question about the situation with Winker when he wasn’t around the team during its postseason run. That was cleared up a bit when Dipoto said Winker was in New York having surgery on his left knee and is expected to undergo another operation to repair an issue with his neck.
Winker struggled badly in his first season with the Mariners after being the centerpiece of a spring training trade that brought him and third baseman Eugenio Suarez to Seattle. Suarez exceeded expectations both at the plate and in the field, while Winker was a defensive liability and hit just .219, more than 80 points lower than he did in 2021 when he was an All-Star with Cincinnati.
The Mariners believe Winker can rebound, but he may end up fighting for a role next season.
“(He) has a really good track record hitting in this league,” Servais said. “He has other some things you need to improve on, yes. There’s no question about that and he’ll be the first admit it. So I think there’s a spot for him on this club going forward.”
Seattle doesn’t face many free agent questions, but the biggest involves right fielder Mitch Haniger, who is coming off another season that was derailed by injuries. When he was healthy, Haniger looked great. But he missed more than four months with an ankle injury.
“I think everyone would like to see us find a way to find common ground with Mitch,” general manager Justin Hollander said. “But players work a long time to get to free agency. It’s really hard to get six years of service to get there and I know Mitch, as much as he wants to be here, also wants to gauge what else is out there. So we’ll keep talking.”