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June 4, 2013 at 11:50 PM

Mariners look like they’ll need to add a catcher before tomorrow’s game

First-round draft pick Mike Zunino is one of two catching possibilities at Class AAA the Mariners could opt for tomorrow if Jesus Sucre has to miss time with injury. Photo Credit: AP

First-round draft pick Mike Zunino is one of two catching possibilities at Class AAA the Mariners could opt for tomorrow if Jesus Sucre has to miss time with injury. Photo Credit: AP

Just when you thought this 7-4 win by the Mariners would be all we talked about postgame. Well, if you saw what happened tonight, you know that catcher Jesus Sucre got hit on the hand by a backswing and eventually had to leave the game soon after. Sucre was examined post-game and X-Rays revealed something possibly more serious than mere bruising on the hand.

Sucre will be examined first thing tomorrow, but the Mariners are now scrambling in the likely event they need to have another catcher up here.

One of their two Class AAA options is last year’s No. 3 overall draft pick, Mike Zunino.

The other guy that won’t be garnering national attention if added is Brandon Bantz, recently called up from AA after Jesus Montero went on the DL.

The Mariners aren’t saying what they’ll do.

“Jack (Zduriencik) and I just started talking about it and we’re going to talk some more about it after we get done here,’’ Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “We’re kind of in a pickle here but we’re going to have to try to cover ourselves.’’

Now, before we go hailing the arrival of Zunino, there’s a lot to consider here. First, the Super 2 threshold in which teams keep top prospects in the minors until late June likely has not been met. That means, if the Mariners guess wrong and start Zunino’s service clock too early, he might qualify for arbitration in two years instead of three. If he winds up being any good in the majors, such a mistake could cost the Mariners millions of dollars.

Now, it wouldn’t matter so much if Zunino was fully ready for promotion. Or, if the Mariners really do need a guy long-term.

But there’s plenty of internal organizational debate about how ready Zunino actually is and how much harm rushing him up could cause. Also, if the injury is only short-term, then there’s no sense taking all those gambles with Zunino’s development and service time. But if it’s any kind of fracture suffered by Sucre and a long-term solution is needed, Bantz and his 37 games at the AAA level the past two seasons hardly seems the answer.

“They X-Rayed it here and they might have seen something small,” Wedge said of Sucre’s injury, which occured on the top of his left hand. “They’re going to check him out further tomorrow morning and then we’ll know. So, we’re not exactly sure just yet.”

Zunino knows some Mariners pitchers already and has about the same experience at the AAA level of the minors with bigger upside.

Neither player is on the 40-man roster, so that won’t be a factor. You have to create a roster spot for either guy, which helps Bantz’s cause, you’d have to think.

If it’s a minor injury and you just need a guy to warm the bench a couple of days, then Zunino likely stays in AAA. Also, don’t forget, even if it’s a longer term injury, the team could call Bantz up a few games and look to deal for a veteran catcher in the the upper level of the minors or who has gone the DFA route.

So, none of this automatically spells Zunino. Still though, it’s interesting.

As for the game, the Mariners picked Felix Hernandez up big with that early run eruption off an ailing Jake Peavy. Hernandez didn’t look sharp at all early and noticed that the White Sox were sitting on his changeup with two strikes.

He started using his four-seam fastball more in those situations and the White Sox couldn’t catch up. Hernandez struck out eight and looked real good from the latter part of the second inning through until the eighth — facing the minimum 17 batters over that stretch — but could not finish his final frame. The White Sox scored twice more off him to make it 6-4, but then Michael Saunders came through big by drawing the walk, stealing two bases and scoring on the sac fly by newly-installed catcher Kelly Shoppach.

So, it wasn’t all Ibanez tonight. Saunders had a big game, too. The Mariners will need to have more of the offense spread around between vets and younger players going forward, espeically on nights the pitching is somewhat less than ace-like.

“That’s definitely important,’’ Ibanez said of staking Hernandez to a big lead early. “He goes out there and he battles every time. He competes and obviously he’s a great pitcher, but when you put runs on the board – we know he gave up one early…but we just kept battling back for him.’’

The Mariners go for the sweep here tomorrow.

Comments | More in roster | Topics: mike zunino; jesus sucre; eric wedge; brandon bantz

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