With the Giants trailing the Astros by one run in the 11th inning Sunday and a runner on first base Miguel Tejada was summoned off the bench to lay down a sacrifice bunt.
Tejada successfully advanced the runner to second base, but Aaron Rowand and Mike Fontenot stranded him, the Giants eventually lost 4-3, and yesterday Tejada explained that he was both surprised and unhappy to get the bunt sign:
I shook my head. I was thinking I was sent up to hit. After that, I did my job. I put the bunt down. I’m not the only guy who was surprised yesterday to see the bunt sign. I just work here. Whatever the manager tells me to do, I gotta do. I respect the manager and the team and my teammates. He tells me to do it, I’ll do it. If that’s the way I’m going to help the team, I’ll do it.
John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle notes that Tejada initially shook his head “no” several times when he saw the bunt sign from third-base coach Tim Flannery and “didn’t run hard to first.” Tejada indicated to reporters that leg soreness kept him from hustling on the play, but then said the injury was “nothing to worry about.”
Tejada also questioned why the manager didn’t send a pitcher to the plate to bunt, as if laying down a sacrifice in the 11th inning of a crucial late-season game should be off limits for a guy hitting .237 with a .268 on-base percentage and .324 slugging percentage. Just one more reason why signing Tejada to a $6 million deal was among the worst moves of the offseason.
To the surprise of, well, very few, the Mariners didn’t make the cut for the postseason this year. While they threw their hats in the ring for a wild card berth, their pitching staff just couldn’t stay healthy, from the handful of pitchers who contracted season-ending injuries in spring training to Felix Hernandez‘s shoulder bursitis to structural damage in Hisashi Iwakuma‘s right shoulder. Left-hander James Paxton missed 79 days with a lingering head cold, strained left forearm and pectoral strain. Heading into the 2018 season, the lefty told MLB.com’s Greg Johns that he plans to “nerd out big-time” in order to prepare for a healthy, consistent run with the club.
So far, Johns reports, that entails a new diet and workout program, hot yoga sessions and blood testing. “I just think there’s more I can do,” Paxton said. “I haven’t done the blood testing before. Finding out if there’s something I don’t know about myself. It’s just about learning and trying to find what works for me.”
When healthy, the 28-year-old southpaw was lights-out for the Mariners. He helped stabilize the front end of the rotation with a 12-5 record in 24 starts and supplemented his efforts with a 2.98 ERA, 2.4 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 through 136 innings. Despite taking multiple trips to the disabled list, he built up 4.6 fWAR — the most wins above replacement he’s compiled in any season of his career to date. Had he not been felled by a pectoral injury in mid-August — one that came with a five-week trip to the disabled list — the club might have been been able to make a bigger push for the playoffs.
Of course, even if Paxton manages to stay healthy next season, the Mariners still have the rest of the rotation to worry about. They cycled through 17 starters in 2017 and tied the 2014 Rangers with 40 total pitchers over the course of the season. Per GM Jerry Dipoto, their top four starters (Paxton, Hernandez, Iwakuma, and Tommy John candidate Drew Smyly) only contributed 17% of total innings pitched, just a tad below the 40% average. Finding adequate big league arms and compensating for injured aces (both current and former) will be tough. Still, getting a healthy, dominant Paxton back on the mound for 30+ starts would be a huge get for the team — whether or not the postseason is in their future next year.