After a May that few, if any, saw coming, Jeanmar Gomez had his rhythm derailed by a forearm injury in the first inning against the Reds on June 2.
On Wednesday, Gomez will make his return to the Pirates rotation against Mariners ace Felix Hernandez after spending more than three weeks on the disabled list. The Bucs have won all seven of the games that Gomez has started.
He was activated from the DL on Wednesday morning, and right-hander Duke Welker was optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis to make room on the active roster for Gomez. Welker made two appearances with the Pirates, pitching 1 1/3 scoreless innings.
Gomez is 1-0 with a 3.26 ERA since taking Jonathan Sanchez's spot in the rotation in early May. He limited opposing hitters to a .213 average and .636 OPS in 30 1/3 innings. He allowed one run in 8 1/3 innings in two rehab starts with Triple-A Indianapolis.
Gomez started the year as a long reliever after arriving from Cleveland in a January trade and spent several of his relief appearances in mop-up duty for Sanchez, who was released about a month into the season. That's when Gomez worked his way into the rotation. But with A.J. Burnett and Wandy Rodriguez rehabbing, Gomez's future as a starter is far from certain.
"Whatever they need me to do, that's what I'll do," Gomez said earlier this month. "Whatever is best for the team."
Hernandez, on the other hand, has been one of baseball's best over the past decade. In his last start, however, he looked like anything but that. He blew a seven-run lead and took a no-decision in a game the Mariners lost 10-9 to the Angels. Hernandez gave up 12 hits and seven runs (six earned) and was rocked for seven straight hits in the fifth inning after being given a rare large lead.
"I'm not thinking about it," said Hernandez, who has allowed one run in 16 innings in two career starts against the Pirates. "I'll just go out there and do what I know I can do."
Still, Hernandez is 8-4 on the year with 2.71 ERA and a 5.60 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He gave up one run and six hits in eight innings at Pittsburgh on May 8.
Mariners: Gutierrez lands on 15-day DL
Center fielder Franklin Gutierrez was placed on the 15-day disabled list Tuesday with a strained hamstring, and Dustin Ackley was recalled from Triple-A after shifting defensively from second base to the outfield with Tacoma.
"He's going to play," Seattle manager Eric Wedge said of Ackley. "We're going to get him in there. We'll keep working him in the outfield, but you might see him in the infield if we need him there."
Wedge has had to rely on veteran outfielders Raul Ibanez and Endy Chavez with Gutierrez and Michael Morse both on the disabled list and Michael Saunders struggling offensively.
"They've been great," Wedge said. "Obviously Raul has been off the charts. Endy has been probably one of our most consistent hitters. And it's great to have Jason Bay back -- after having his own hammy tweaked -- especially against the left-handers. We're starting to get back to the point where we can use all our players instead of having to grind them down like we've had to do."
Pirates: Road success continues
With a win on Wednesday, the Pirates can improve to 7-2 on this road trip, their fourth winning trip in the last five.
The Bucs also will be aiming for their sixth victory in a row, which would match their longest winning streak since 2008. They won 10 in a row in 2004.
• Gomez has made one career start at Safeco Field. He gave up two runs over six innings in a 3-0 loss to Hernandez and the Mariners while with the Indians in September 2010.
• The Pirates are now 2-2 all-time in Seattle and 3-6 overall against the Mariners.
• Pittsburgh is 10-3 in Interleague Play this season. Seattle is 3-4.
Steven Petrella is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.