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Mariners Jarred Kelenic
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Mariners prospect Jarred Kelenic will miss time after suffering knee strain

Jarred Kelenic tweaked his knee running the bases on an error Friday. (Getty)

A little scare Friday with Jarred Kelenic has turned into a small setback for the Mariners’ prized prospect.

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The team announced Saturday morning that an MRI revealed Kelenic has a strain of the adductor muscle in his left knee. It is a Grade 2 strain, and while that is not as severe as a Grade 3 rupture and there is no word yet on a timetable for his return, Grade 2 strains do involve tearing so Kelenic can be expected to miss at least a few weeks.

“While disappointed that Jarred will be sidelined, we are relieved that the long-term outlook is positive,” Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said in a press release. “We all look forward to seeing him back on the field in the near future.”

Kelenic required a visit from the trainer after tweaking his knee racing for first as an error was made in Friday’s game against the White Sox. He stayed in the game and took another at-bat, but the Mariners.

“He left here last night convinced he was OK but we want to be smart,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said Saturday morning relaying the news that Kelenic was getting his knee examined.

The injury brings what no doubt is a disappointing pause to Kelenic’s spring. The 21 year old has been eager to prove his readiness for the big leagues, reporting to camp in expected yet still impressive shape after an offseason of work near his home in Wisconsin.

Related: Dipoto says M’s ‘open-minded’ but cautious about Kelenic

Last rotation spot takes spotlight

The battle for the sixth and final spot in the Mariners’ rotation started Saturday with both Justin Dunn and Nick Margevicius making their first Cactus League appearances when the Mariners hosted the A’s in a seven-inning contest.

Seattle ended up with a fourth straight tie, playing Oakland to a 1-1 draw (box score here). Dunn bounced back from a shaky first inning where he allowed three base runners by retiring the A’s 1-2-3 in the second, and he struck out two.

Margevicius had the next two innings, allowing only a walk and striking out one.

How much of a competition is actually at hand has been debated with four of the six spots in the Mariners’ rotation already occupied by left-handers. Servais points out that in reality, the Mariners’ lefties are all unique and that he has no issue with the number they might have in the rotation as long as they have six consistent starters.

“I love the fact that we are that left-handed,” he said. “I’m actually excited to see them get going and get on a roll. There’s also a lot of really good left-handed hitting in this league and I know they will equalize that, and (the left-handed pitchers) also have the weapons to get through the righties as well. I like it.”

What he’s looking for from the two rotation candidates who pitched Saturday is how they work through their game opportunities. In that regard, the operative word is work.

“It’s more about, are they executing their pitches? Are they getting better? Are they sticking with the game plan as they go into it?” he said. “That tells me more about where the player is at rather than bailing and going with the one thing that you are most comfortable and confident in. It’s about getting better and both those guys are young pitchers who have things to work on. It won’t be looking and evaluating off of results as much as we are on process.”

The Mariners like what they saw in terms of process in 2020 from southpaw Margevicius, who pitching coach Pete Woodworth has called Seattle’s most prepared starter outside of Marco Gonzales. The right-handed Dunn, on the other hand, has the stuff – or has shown the stuff in the past. He perhaps left Seattle with the biggest offseason to-do list but returned to Arizona with boxes checked, and Servais and Woodworth are both impressed with what they have seen early in camp. Now it’s time to take bullpens to field. Can he take control of his games, get ahead in the count, survive when he doesn’t have his best stuff? Those questions won’t be answered in one start and certainly not Saturday.

“I kind of take it with a grain of salt the first time out,” said Servais. “Just let the guys get comfortable.”

Lineup!

Here’s who the M’s started Saturday:

J.P. Crawford, SS
Mitch Haniger, RF
Kyle Seager, 3B
Evan White, 1B
Tom Murphy, C
Dylan Moore, 2B
Taylor Trammell, CF
Luis Torrens, DH
Luis Liberato, LF

Justin Dunn, SP

Mariners notes

• A non-roster invitee name to keep an eye on this spring? Roenis Elías, who Servais pointed to as the biggest bright spot on the mound Friday.

“The fastball had really good life on it, up to 95. He’s always has a competitive changeup and the curveball was outstanding,” he said.

The Mariners value Elías’ flexibility out of the bullpen. The left-hander can face lefties and righties, go situational, pitch long and close in a pinch. In addition to that, he’s always been a good clubhouse presence, something the team knows as this is his third stint with Seattle.

“We know the person,” said Servais. “Ellie is a really good teammate, he likes to have fun. He has great presence on the mound. He brings a veteran sense of confidence when he is out there. He’s off to a really good start.”

• There will be two new faces in camp shortly as 2020 first-round pick Emerson Hancock and 2019 second-round pick Brandon Williamson are due to arrive after clearing intake testing. Teams are allowed 75 players in camp and the Mariners had open spots so they are taking the opportunity to get two of their younger pitchers both a head start in getting ready for the 2021 season and some exposure to big league camp. They will not appear in games.

• As of now, Sunday’s game against the Angels is scheduled to go seven innings, with Logan Gilbert getting the start for the Mariners.

710Sports.com’s Brent Stecker contributed to this report.

Follow Mariners insider Shannon Drayer on Twitter.

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