When the Mariners optioned left-hander Roenis Elias to Triple-A Tacoma immediately following his Aug. 7 start, he wasn't being punished for pitching poorly.
Rather, the plan was to have Elias skip a big league start and make a short one with Tacoma to limit his innings count.
In a start with the Rainiers last Wednesday, Elias responded by throwing five frames of no-hit ball in a 4-2 win.
Elias returns to the big leagues Monday when the red-hot Mariners, who have won 10 of 12 and jumped into the second American League Wild Card spot, open a three-game Interleague series against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Seattle optioned the contract of outfielder James Jones to Triple-A Tacoma after Sunday's 8-1 win in Detroit to clear space on the 25-man roster for Elias.
Elias was pitching as well as he had all season in the weeks leading up to his Tacoma hiatus. That came in four starts after the All-Star break, when he posted a 2.08 ERA over 21 2/3 innings while holding opponents to a .222 batting average. During that span, he went 2-1 and posted a strikeout-to-walk rate of 26 to 8.
In his last start with the Mariners, he gave up two runs and lasted 5 2/3 innings in a 13-3 win over the White Sox. Then came the temporary demotion.
The main reason?
Among rookies, Elias entered Sunday second in the Major Leagues with 134 2/3 innings pitched.
"The team is doing what is best for me," Elias said through a translator after the start. "I've got a lot of innings so far, and they're trying to keep me healthy. So they're doing what is best for the team."
The Phillies will answer with right-hander Jerome Williams -- a pitcher the Mariners are plenty familiar with. Williams began the year with the Astros before getting released in early July. A few days later, he signed with the Rangers before going 1-1 with a 9.90 ERA in two starts that spanned a total of 10 innings.
The Phillies, who have had their own pitching struggles this season, claimed Williams off waivers from Texas on Aug. 10. Williams responded by picking up a no-decision in his first start, allowing two runs over 5 1/3 innings in Philadelphia's 7-2 loss to the Angels.
"I'm just trying to help in any way possible," Williams said. "I don't think it's an audition or anything like that. The only thing I'm thinking about is performing. Whatever the team asks me to do, I'll do."
Mariners: Saunders not ready yet
Right fielder Michael Saunders will spend at least a few more days playing for Triple-A Tacoma, manager Lloyd McClendon said Sunday.
Saunders, on the 15-day disabled list with a left oblique strain, had his rehab assignment with the Rainiers interrupted recently when he went on paternity leave for the birth of his second child, a baby boy.
McClendon wants Saunders to be swinging the bat well before rejoining the team. With the Mariners this season, he is hitting .276 with six home runs and 28 RBIs in 65 games.
"It's too important. We've got to win them here," McClendon said. "We ain't here to get timing down. We're here to win."
Phillies: Amaro happy to land Valentin in Hernandez deal
The Phillies announced Saturday they acquired second baseman Jesmuel Valentin from the Dodgers as part of the Roberto Hernandez trade.
Valentin was ranked the No. 13 prospect in the Dodgers' organization and was the first of two players to be named in the trade between Philadelphia and Los Angeles.
Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Sunday he was pleased to get Valentin in the deal and noted the Phillies are trying to land a pitcher as the last remaining piece of the trade.
"We have a pretty good idea of who we want but we're still waiting to make a decision right now," Amaro said. "We'll check on some medical stuff. They're younger guys. For the situation we're in and the player we gave up, I think we did pretty well. Even if we had just this guy, we'd be happy with it."
The plan is for Valentin, who is the son of former Major Leaguer Jose Valentin, to report to Class A Advanced Clearwater.
• The Mariners are 11-3 over their last 14 games and 16-12 since the All-Star break.
• Phillies center fielder Ben Revere raised his average to .314 with a 3-for-5 afternoon against the Giants on Sunday. In the process, Revere moved into second place in the NL batting race, moving ahead of the Dodgers' Yasiel Puig -- both are trailing Rockies first baseman Justin Morneau.
Adam Lewis is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.