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Mariners’ McClendon stands by decision to push back the pitching

While the immediate result was ugly, pushing back the rotation was a long-term move by Lloyd McClendon. (AP)

Lloyd McClendon probably didn’t envision a loss as ugly as the one his Mariners suffered Wednesday at Safeco Field, but he knew it was a possibility. It was something that he weighed when he made the decision to once again push back the starting rotation.

The two previous times the rotation was pushed back a day, the decision was made and the plan was mapped out well in advance. This decision was different. On Tuesday, I asked McClendon if this pitching move was part of the original plan.

“We had things planned out that guys were going to be on six days at some point, but from what I saw on the road trip I thought this was necessary and we changed directions a little bit,” he answered. “I slept on it for a couple of days and I know that there is absolutely no doubt that I am doing the right thing for the future of these pitchers and hopefully for the future of this organization.”

McClendon knew he was rolling the dice with Wednesday’s game against the Rangers.

“Having said that, I don’t know if we are going to win the games or not,” he said. “That does not guarantee a win. But I know that I’m doing the right thing for these players and I’m doing the right thing for the organization.”

The move was not about Wednesday or even this weekend’s series against the Nationals.

“Last month I managed for September, this month I manage for October and I am trying to keep the big picture in mind,” he said. “This is absolutely the right thing to do because if we go to where we hope we can go, those innings are going to get way up there and when you have an opportunity to freshen them up like this, you have to take advantage of it.”

Win or lose, I am not going to find fault in, take issue with or even question a manager’s decision to make a move that in his eyes – which have been watching this closer than anyone else’s – is in the interest of protecting his pitchers. It was a tough loss to watch, but we will see if the move pays off in terms of wins. If it doesn’t, it was still the right move. There are no guarantees when it comes to wins just as there are no guarantees in keeping a pitcher healthy, but better to take chances with the former than the latter.

Moving on.

The team will have a very different look early next week as rosters expand, and by the sounds of things, the Mariners will be bringing up a large group from Triple-A Tacoma. The list has yet to be finalized, but McClendon said there would be six to nine players joining the club.

One player that will be included in that group is James Paxton, who was optioned to Tacoma to make room for Erasmo Ramirez. Paxton is eligible to return as soon as the Rainiers’ season ends, so he will be back and will start Sept. 2 in Oakland.

Some of you have asked if he will lose his playoff eligibility because he won’t be on the roster Aug. 31. In past years he would, but there are new and much simpler rules for postseason roster eligibility. Basically, a player has to be on the 40-man roster or various disabled and leave lists Aug. 31 to be eligible for a team’s playoff roster.

As for those playoffs, as brutal as the Mariners’ 12-4 loss to the Rangers was, the Tigers stumbled badly as well, falling to the Yankees 8-4. The Mariners hold onto their half-game lead over the Detroit.

David Price made the start for Detroit, which would put him in line to start the final game of the season if no adjustments are made (with the Mariners’ latest adjustment to the rotation, Felix Hernandez is now in line to start the first game after the regular season ends), although there is room to manipulate that as the Tigers have two off days in September, which is one more than the Mariners have.

The Tigers do have a bit of a challenge ahead, however, as they will play their second double-header in seven days Saturday in Chicago.

The Mariners have an off day Thursday and then a very well-rested Felix takes the hill Friday.

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