While most of the questions were about broader topics pertaining to the offseason, like payroll or player acquisition, or about all that went wrong and some that went right in the 2023 season, there were other housekeeping items in the Mariners’ annual post-mortem news conference Tuesday afternoon at T-Mobile Park.
On the injury front, Jerry Dipoto, the Mariners’ president of baseball operations, and general manager Justin Hollander were both optimistic that left-handed pitcher Robbie Ray would be back on the mound before the end of the 2024 season.
Ray was actually at the park on Tuesday doing his daily rehab work.
The absence of Ray in the rotation and in the clubhouse was costly for the Mariners. He threw just 3 1/3 innings in one start this season, and he experienced forearm discomfort after the March 31 outing. He was diagnosed with a flexor tendon strain. After a setback in his rehab, Ray opted to have surgery to repair the tendon. But further testing prior to his procedure showed damage to the ulnar collateral ligament. Dr. Keith Meister repaired both issues in one session.
“Robbie looks great,” Dipoto said. “He feels great. He’s hit every checkpoint. Our expectation right now would be somewhere closer to the All-Star break is the first time we’d anticipate seeing him in the big leagues. I think that’s probably on the early end. It is a 12- to 15-month process. He’s really worked his tail off through the course of his rehab. I have no reason to believe that it’s going to take longer than that.”
Hollander was also cautious in the return.
“Robbie’s going to miss significant time next year,” he said. “I can’t tell you when he’s going to be back. You could tell me it was any of the All-Star break, August or September, and those are all believable dates on the calendar. It just depends. It’s a long rehab process, and you never know which way it’s really going to go.”
Marco Gonzales, who had surgery to alleviate a nerve issue in his forearm, is expected to be ready to go for spring training. Gonzales, who lives in Seattle during the offseason, will continue to rehab at T-Mobile.
First baseman Evan White, who had season-ending hip surgery in early May, is also expected to be ready for spring training. A Gold Glove first baseman in 2020, he missed almost of all the last three seasons, playing in 68 total games, including only two this season.
White suffered a severe groin strain in the second game of the season with the Rainiers and had setbacks in his return. He went to a specialist, who recommended another hip surgery, his second in two years.
Right-handed pitcher Emerson Hancock (lat strain) is also expected to be ready and without limitations when spring training opens. Hancock dealt with lat strains the previous two seasons as well, and the Mariners plan to spend the offseason trying to refine his mechanics and his offseason workouts to prevent another reoccurrence.
Right-handed pitchers Easton McGee and Penn Murfee, both of whom underwent midseason Tommy John surgeries, are expected to miss most of next season with their recovery and rehab from their procedures.
• Manager Scott Servais confirmed that he intends to bring back the entire MLB coaching staff next season, saying he wants to maintain continuity. Though he did say there could be some changes for roles and responsibilities for the staff members.
The Mariners could lose also lose a coach to another team. Bullpen coach Stephen Vogt is immensely popular and could look for a different role with another team.
• Before he missed the last six weeks of the season with a thumb injury, the Mariners seemed adamant about signing catcher Tom Murphy to a contract extension to keep him in the organization. Asked about Murphy’s future, the Mariners were a little less definitive.
“We do need to find a backup catcher if it’s not Murph; obviously, he’s earned the right to go to free agency,” Hollander said. “He was a tremendous contributor this year. His consistency with the bat was something that was really a driver for us for a while. I think we all know what he means to the group on a game-calling perspective.”