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Apr 1, 2024 8:03 am

Guardians’ Triston McKenzie aims for fresh start vs. Mariners

Triston McKenzie

The Cleveland Guardians expected a lot out of Triston McKenzie last season.

Instead, they got just four starts between a pair of lengthy stays on the injured list.

McKenzie (0-3, 5.06 ERA in 2023) is scheduled to make his 2024 debut Monday night when the Guardians open a three-game series at Seattle.

McKenzie went 11-11 with a 2.96 ERA in 2022. But the right-hander suffered an ulnar collateral ligament sprain last spring that sidelined him until June, then a teres major muscle strain.

“I had dealt with injuries before,” the 26-year-old said. “But having to deal with them after feeling like I had come back to the top of the mountain, only to fall off again, was tough. But I think it’s all a learning experience and just made me better as a person and a better teammate.”

New Guardians manager Stephen Vogt, who spent last season as the Mariners bullpen coach before replacing the retired Terry Francona, said he was impressed with McKenzie during spring training.

“He’s just an infectious personality,” Vogt said. “Really, really competitive person. He doesn’t accept mediocrity. I picked up on that right away.”

McKenzie is 0-2 with a 7.36 ERA in three career starts against Seattle. He is set to go up against fellow right Emerson Hancock (0-0, 4.50 ERA in 2023), who had his own injury issues after making his major league debut last season.

“The biggest thing is I’m healthy,” Hancock said. “I feel really good and am able to prepare the way I want.”

Hancock didn’t get a decision last season, but the Mariners won all three games he started before discomfort in his right shoulder shut him down.

“It was tough, especially because I felt I was in a good spot,” he said. “I was making strides, making adjustments, and then my season was over.”

Hancock was slated to start this season at Triple-A Tacoma until Bryan Woo landed on the injured list with elbow inflammation, paving the way for Hancock to face the Guardians for the first time.

The Guardians opened the season by taking three of four games in Oakland. They rallied from a three-run deficit in the eighth-inning Sunday in an attempt to complete the sweep before the A’s scored on a bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the ninth for a 4-3 victory.

“If we win three out of four all year long, we’re going to be pretty happy with where we are,” Vogt said. “No loss feels good, and this one certainly doesn’t. But really, really proud of the way the guys played this series.”

The Mariners split a four-game series with visiting Boston after a 5-1 loss Sunday.

Seattle has a total of 10 runs on 23 hits and has struck out 45 times, something the Mariners were hoping to avoid when they retooled their offense in the offseason.

“Offensively, we just haven’t gotten it going yet,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “It’s four games into the season. We need to be more consistent there in what we’re doing, and we will be.”

–Field Level Media

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