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Rob Whalen felt abandoned by Mariners when dealing with mental health issues

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Pitcher Rob Whalen quietly retired from baseball after last season. He started the year with Triple-A Tacoma, made one appearance in the majors, holding the Red Sox scoreless over eight innings on June 15, and was sent back to the minors shortly thereafter. The reason for Whalen’s retirement? Mental health issues, as Hannah Keyser of Yahoo Sports reports.

Keyser’s reporting is long and detailed, so I urge you to click through and read for the whole story. The summary: Whalen was dealing with anxiety while with the Mariners in 2017-18. He reached out to the Mariners for help. Though he did get some help, the team allegedly prioritized his being in uniform over dealing with his mental health issues. Whalen said he felt “abandoned” by the team, though he says he doesn’t wish to condemn the Mariners specifically since it is a structural problem. Mike Majarma, another former Mariner who also retired due to mental health issues, shared Whalen’s sentiment. Majarma said, “I don’t think [the Mariners] knew how to handle it.”

The Mariners did make an attempt to help Whalen, but their efforts were inadequate, as he tells it. Whalen said the organization offered him a week off, but director of player development Andy McKay called him just three days into the break and told him to report to the team immediately or else he would be replaced on the roster.

Whalen spent most of July and all of August 2017, through the end of the minor league season, on the restricted list to address his mental health issues. Describing his feeling of abandonment, Whalen said, “That whole offseason, I never got a text from a coach, never got a call, text from a player. Nobody ever reached out to me.” Whalen also said that his teammates were disrespectful about his seeking help. Some players referred to him as a “psycho.” Whalen said, “It’s just really where we’re at now in sports; it’s a global society problem. It’s that stigma: ‘You’re fragile; you’re a headcase.'”

Although it certainly sounds like the Mariners could have done a lot more to help Whalen, this is indeed a league-wide problem. Really, as Whalen said, it’s a societal issue. We take physical issues, which we can easily see, seriously. Mental health issues, which are a lot less visible, are not taken nearly as seriously. Hopefully, Whalen’s speaking out and Keyser’s reporting help get the ball rolling on improving teams’ responses to players’ mental health issues across the board. This should happen simply because the people who help run baseball teams have empathy, but it is also smart strictly from a business perspective as well. Players who successfully deal with their (mental) health problems will become more productive, and will have the added benefit of showing other players they don’t have to hide their issues to maintain job security. Rather than having one player publicly struggling and many others suffering in silence, hundreds of players across the league could reliably get the help they need and deserve. They will then return quicker and hopefully flourish.

Yankees place Aaron Judge (strained calf) on IL

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NEW YORK — Yankees star Aaron Judge was placed on the injured list with a right calf strain before Friday night’s game against Boston and manager Aaron Boone is optimistic the outfielder will not miss significant time.

The move was retroactive to Wednesday and Boone described the strain as mild after an MRI revealed the injury. To replace Judge on the roster, Thairo Estrada was recalled from the Yankees’ alternate site in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Judge began Friday leading the majors with nine homers and tied with Colorado’s Charlie Blackmon for the major league lead with 20 RBIs.

“It’s something that I think he really wants to try and work through here and kind of wants to be out here and feels like it’s a day-to-day thing which it may very well be, but I just think obviously it goes without saying how important a player Aaron is to us,” Boone said.

Boone had said last weekend’s series on the artificial turf in Tampa Bay took its toll on the 6-foot-7 outfielder.

Judge joined Giancarlo Stanton as the second Yankees slugger to land on the injured list this. Stanton was placed on the IL with a strained hamstring after getting hurt in the second game of last Saturday’s doubleheader.

“We’ve lost two MVP-caliber players,” Boone said. “Obviously that is a blow, especially two guys that playing well as they are right now.”

Judge was pulled for a pinch hitter during Tuesday night’s win over Atlanta and didn’t play Wednesday. The Yankees were off Thursday.

The 28-year-old All-Star missed time during July’s training camp because of a stiff neck.

The 2017 AL Rookie of the Year hit 27 homers in each of the last two seasons, both of them interrupted by injuries. His right wrist was broken when he was hit by a pitch in 2018 and he went on the injured list for two months last year with a left oblique strain.

Judge was diagnosed with a broken rib in March and would not have been ready for the season opener if the season began as scheduled on March 26.