The Seattle Mariners are trying to juggle their present and future.
Left-hander Marco Gonzales, who has a team-leading 12 victories, was scratched from his scheduled start Sunday against Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers, and his turn through the rotation was skipped to give him extra rest.
He is set to return Wednesday afternoon when the Mariners play host to the Houston Astros in the finale of a three-game series.
The Mariners remain in the American League West race and are battling for one of the two wild-card berths, but also realize Gonzales is likely to have a prominent role beyond 2018.
Though Gonzales is 12-8 with a 3.91 ERA, he's 0-3 with a 7.94 ERA in his three starts this month. Plus, he's already pitched 142 2/3 innings after throwing 40 in 2017. He had Tommy John surgery in 2016.
"The main objective is to have a strong finish and not be crawling across the finish line at the end of the year," Gonzales told MLB.com. "In that aspect and that lens, I'm taking it as a positive. Obviously I'm a competitor. I take it as a challenge to go out and have a strong start on Wednesday. I'm looking forward to the test."
Mariners manager Scott Servais said the extra rest for Gonzales is "something we've talked about for a while now."
"We gave him a pretty good break at the All-Star break. We'll give him a couple extra days here and then we have some off days coming up, so he'll get a couple extra days between his next start," Servais said. "So we have a span of about 20 days where he'll make three starts instead of four."
Gonzales said he believes his recent struggles have to do with command with his fastball and are not because he's tiring.
But he said he understood the decision to skip a start.
"At the end of the day, we want to win," he said. "So as far as taking into account what it will take me to get quality starts, I think just resetting some things and coming back with a strong start after a couple days of rest, that's good for everybody. They have my best interest in mind. I'm not taking this as they don't believe in me or anything like that. It's collectively, let's figure out how we win games late in the year."
Gonzales is 0-1 with a 4.76 ERA in two career appearances (one start) against the Astros. In the only previous start against them, Gonzales suffered a 9-2 loss April 19 in Houston when he gave up three runs and five hits in 4 2/3 innings.
The Astros are scheduled to start right-hander Charlie Morton (12-3, 2.78 ERA). Morton is 3-3 with a 3.16 ERA in seven career starts against Seattle, including 2-1 with a 2.37 ERA in three starts this season.
Morton has not had a win since July 31. He allowed four hits and two runs in five innings in his most recent start, a 4-3 loss to Oakland on Friday, a game in which Morton did not get a decision.
Altuve said he was glad to be back after missing 21 games with a sore right knee. It was his first time on the disabled list in his eight-year career.
"I'm excited," Altuve told MLB.com. "This is a great team. I know you guys know I love every single part about this team and the way they play. We're in first place and most likely we're going to be in the playoffs, and I have a lot of confidence in my teammates, and I just want to be a part of this."