The Mariners’ ever-evolving catching situation took a surprising turn today when the Mariners signed 41-year-old catcher Henry Blanco, while Kelly Shoppach was designated for assignment.
Shoppach had been holding down the bulk of the catching duties since Opening Day starter Jesus Montero was sent to the minors two weeks ago. Jesus Sucre replaced Montero, but he is currently on the disabled list. Brandon Bantz had a brief stay, and then on Tuesday the Mariners called up their top prospect, Mike Zunino.
Shoppach’s average had dropped to .196 in 35 games, with 45 strikeouts in 107 at-bats. He’s hitting .136 since April 30. The M’s now have 10 days to trade, release or outright Shoppach’s contract. Blanco, a 16-year veteran, was released by the Blue Jays on June 10. He appeared in 15 games with Toronto, catching 13 games, including 11 consecutive starts by knuckleballer R.A. Dickey. He was hitting .184 (10-for-38).
The Mariners may view the well-traveled Blanco (the Mariners are his 11th major-league team) as a potential mentor for Zunino and Sucre, but this seems to be a sure sign that Zunino will get the bulk of the playing time behind the plate at least until Sucre is activated.
“We had interest in Henry this offseason,” GM Jack Zduriencik said in the Mariner press release. “And recent circumstances developed allowing us to acquire Henry. We are pleased to be able to add him to our 25-man roster and look forward to his contributions.”