Even though Seattle Mariners outfielder Julio Rodriguez hasn't played since July 30 due to a wrist injury, the 21-year-old has been so spectacular that he hasn't lost any ground in the American League Rookie of the Year race – he's the clear-cut -550 favorite at Caesars Sportsbook. Rodriguez was activated from the injured list Thursday and will be back in the lineup for Friday's series opener at Texas. Seattle is -165 to win.
The original hope was that Rodriguez would return Wednesday vs. the Yankees, but instead he hit in the cage and that wrist "felt good" according to Manager Scott Servais. Rodriguez, the AL Rookie of the Month for both May and June (Minnesota's Jose Miranda beat him out for July), is batting .271 with 55 runs scored, 19 doubles, two triples, 18 home runs, 57 RBI, 28 walks and 21 stolen bases. He leads all rookies in several offensive categories.
Seattle is 53-43 with Rodriguez in the lineup, hitting .236 as a team with a .318 on-base percentage and .385 slugging percentage. Without him, the Mariners are 8-9, hitting .206 with a .291 on-base percentage and .369 slugging. Against Texas this season, Rodriguez is 12-for-47 with three homers, a double, four steals, 13 RBI and eight runs scored.
Fellow outfielder Jesse Winker also could return Friday. He hasn't played since Monday with back spasms. Winker is batting .229 with 11 homers and 42 RBI. Seattle has barely been whole all season because another good outfielder, Mitch Haniger, missed more than three months injured but is batting .412 in five August games since returning. This team could be dangerous when healthy.
Rookie George Kirby (3-3, 3.40 ERA) is on the mound Friday. The right-hander dominated the Angels last Saturday, allowing one run with eight strikeouts and no walks over six innings. Kirby's 7.36 strikeout-to-walk ratio through his first 15 starts is the best in MLB history (excludes openers). He is 1-1 with a 1.64 ERA in 11 innings against the Rangers.
Texas will piece together today's game pitcher by pitcher. Journeyman Josh Sborz (5.87 ERA in 15.1 innings) will make the first big-league start of his career but will likely not be out there more than two innings. He'll be followed by lefty former starter Taylor Hearn (5-6, 5.14 ERA).
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