After a long time out of the game, reliever Ken Giles happy to be back in the ballpark

OAKLAND, Calif. — Although Ken Giles likely won’t pitch in a save during the three-game series, the cavernous crypt that was renamed the Oakland Coliseum after brief stints of less-than-remarkable corporate sponsorships will continue to be a special place for him.

“I have a lot of history in this field,” he said on a sweltering Tuesday afternoon. “I got my first major league save here, and I’m happy to be back here.”

That first save came on Sept. 20, 2014, when he was with the Phillies. The next save from him will be 116the in his carrer.

Giles is happy to be anywhere in the big leagues after missing most of the COVID-shortened 2020 season due to elbow discomfort, missing all of last season as he recovered from Tommy John surgery and early 68 games this season due to a tendon strain in his middle finger.

“I’m just grateful to have a chance after being out for so long,” he said. “I hope I can get things going and either way I can help this team get back on track.”

Giles last appeared in an MLB game on September 15, 2020 with the Blue Jays. It was his fourth and final appearance of the season, being canceled due to an elbow problem, which would be diagnosed as a torn ulnar collateral ligament. He underwent Tommy John surgery on October 1.

Seattle signed him to a two-year, $7 million deal before the 2021 season, knowing Giles would not pitch in the first year of the deal. The Mariners were investing in the 2022 season and the deal had a club option for 2023.

The Mariners hoped to have Giles on opening day. But after his best performance in the Cactus League on March 25, where he showed a mid-90s fastball and a biting slider, Giles felt a strange soreness in his middle finger. He was diagnosed as having a tendon strain. It led to a frustratingly slow recovery.

“It seemed like there was no light at the end of the tunnel at some points,” he said. “Going into spring training, I was feeling great and that last start was just phenomenal. And then, just a few days later, something in life appears out of nowhere. So everything happens for a reason.”

Giles realized how much that finger affected his throw.

“For pitchers, fingers are everything,” he said. “You can’t throw fastballs. You can’t spin the ball. You can not do anything. I think the hardest part was letting it heal itself. There really is no rehabilitation for a finger injury. So you just have to let it run its normal course and wait and wait until it feels better.”

Giles made eight appearances in rehab between High-A Everett and Triple-A Tacoma, posting a 14.21 ERA with 10 earned runs allowed in 6 1/3 innings pitched along with six walks and eight strikeouts. He didn’t care about numbers.

“It’s just pitching again,” he said. “It’s been almost two years since I last pitched. I’m getting my feet wet. I treated it like spring training, preparing my body physically, my mindset and just being around a baseball game. I think being in the big league environment will help me fit in a little better than I would have during spring training or a rehab game.”

Manager Scott Servais won’t start putting Giles back in high-leverage situations.

“I think it’s important that we get him a couple of softer landings, so to speak, in his first few times out,” Servais said. “It’s been a while since he’s been out there. So let’s put his feet under him. I know he has a lot of experience in this league, but he always helps once you get your confidence back and start throwing some shots and working some innings.”

grades

— Following Monday’s roster moves, which included the addition of Giles, the retirement of infielder Kevin Padlo and the designation of Sergio Romo and Roenis Elias for assignment, the Mariners have 13 position players and 13 pitchers. It is not desirable that they have even numbers. The Mariners would rather have 14 pitchers and 12 position players.

MLB forcing roster setup for a team is a hassle for Servais. He has often spoken against it.

“It dramatically changes the game for the 30 guys that sit in the seat that I sit in, when you’re trying to make decisions and you don’t want to bully the bullpen guys,” he said. “Certainly, you’re trying to keep the guys healthy throughout the year and all that. But you will see some changes. I think you’ll see more guys maybe pitch multiple innings or one more inning out. On certain nights when you’re down in the game, you may have to let your starter work a little harder to take advantage of that extra inning and not have to go to your bullpen too soon. There will be some changes there.”

What if you run out of pitching?

“I think you’re going to see more position players throw than ever before in the game,” Servais said. “And I don’t think that’s a good thing. So I’m not in favor of the rule, but we follow the rules, so we’ll make adjustments.”

— MLB released its first All-Star voting update this summer. The Mariners don’t have a leading player at his position. Ty France ranks second among AL first basemen with 596,030 votes. Toronto’s Vlad Guerrero Jr. leads all first basemen with 947,045 votes.

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