SEATTLE MARINERS

Mariners Updates: What’s going on with George Kirby’s knee?

May 5, 2024, 12:32 PM | Updated: 2:31 pm

Scott Servais George Kirby Seattle Mariners...

Seattle Mariners manager Scott Servais fist bumps pitcher George Kirby on Sept. 26, 2023. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The Seattle Mariners’ loss to the Astros in a series opener Friday night in Houston was accompanied by a big question: Why didn’t George Kirby start the seventh inning when he was only at 88 pitches?

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Seattle held a 3-1 lead when the call to the bullpen was made, but it ended up taking three pitchers to get through a bottom of the seventh where the Astros scored four runs on their way to a 5-3 victory. Understandably, fans wanted to know why the decision was made to take Kirby out of the game at that point.

The answer turned out to be a lingering right knee issue, as Mariners manager Scott Servais revealed after the game that it is something Kirby also felt a couple starts prior on April 21 at Colorado, another game where he was pulled at 88 pitches.

According to Mariners reporter Daniel Kramer of MLB.com, Kirby said the issue is something he’s been dealing with in recent outings.

“It’s been kind of bugging me for the last couple of weeks and I’m pitching through it,” Kirby said after Friday’s game, per Kramer. “Obviously, I’d like to go back out there. But we decided probably the best idea was to end it there and give it to the bullpen.”

Prior to the Mariners’ 5-0 win at Houston on Saturday, Servais said that Kirby had an MRI taken that morning to get his knee checked out. So where do things stand a day later?

Servais addressed Kirby’s status in his pregame comments Sunday, and it sounds like he won’t need to miss any time.

“Kirby’s going to be OK. It’s just kind of figuring out a way to just manage it,” Servais said. “I don’t think it’s something that’s going to cause him to miss a start or anything like that. He’s going to be fine.”

Servais did not get into any specifics when asked about results of the MRI.

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The 26-year-old Kirby has bounced back from a pair of rough starts early in the season, going at least five innings and allowing no more than two earned runs in each of his last four games. That includes 18 innings where he has allowed just one run while registering 22 strikeouts to just two walks over his last three starts.

For the season, Kirby is 3-2 with a 3.76 ERA, 1.043 WHIP, and rates of 9.6 strikeouts per nine innings, 0.939 walks per nine, and an American League-leading 10.25 strikeouts per walk. He led all of MLB last season in walks per nine (0.897) and strikeouts per walk (9.053).

The latest on Bryan Woo

While the Mariners feel good about Kirby making his next scheduled start, they do have an option nearing a return to the rotation.

Second-year right-hander Bryan Woo continued a dominant rehab stint with Triple-A Tacoma on Saturday as he works his way back from elbow inflammation. Making his third start with the Rainiers, Woo struck six while allowing three hits over five scoreless innings against Sacramento. He also made this nifty defensive play to rob a potential hit.

The numbers for Woo with Tacoma are impressive, to say the least. He hasn’t allowed a run or issued a walk over 11 1/3 innings, and he’s given up just five hits along the way.

Woo threw 66 pitches on Saturday, and it sounds like one more outing in the minors will be needed to let him get further stretched out.

“From what I understood, it was really good. So he’s progressing,” Servais said Sunday about Woo’s latest start. “… His next time out he’s probably ready to go 80, 85 pitches, something like that, so we’ll see where that falls in.”

Rookie right-hander Emerson Hancock has held Woo’s spot in the rotation so far this season, and he currently owns a 4.75 ERA and 1.286 WHIP in six starts. While he lasted just 3 2/3 innings in his last start Wednesday in a loss to Atlanta, that came after three straight quality starts where he pitched an even six innings in each and allowed just four earned runs combined.

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Mariners Updates: What’s going on with George Kirby’s knee?