Mariners demote starting catcher Mike Zunino to Triple-A

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Hours after firing general manager Jack Zduriencik the Mariners have demoted one of his worst draft picks, catcher Mike Zunino, to Triple-A.

It’s an unorthodox move, to say the least, because Zunino has been the Mariners’ starting catcher for the past two-and-a-half seasons and demoting him to Triple-A at a time when the minor-league season is essentially already over seems more punitive than anything else. After all, if the Mariners simply waited three days their roster would have expanded on September 1 and it’s not as if there’s any real time for Zunino to get work in at Triple-A.

With that said, he certainly earned the demotion had it come in, say, June or July. Zunino has hit .174 this season and .193 for his career, showing zero ability to control the strike zone with 339 strikeouts and 54 walks in 295 games. He has 20-homer power, but it’s added up to a .605 OPS for the No. 3 overall pick in the 2012 draft.

To replace Zunino on the roster the Mariners called up John Hicks, a 26-year-old career minor leaguer hitting .245 with six homers and a .645 OPS in 83 games at Triple-A. He’s a non-prospect having a poor season, which adds to the oddity of the Zunino demotion.

Zack Wheeler headed to IL due to shoulder fatigue

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Mets pitcher Zack Wheeler will be placed on the 10-day injured list due to fatigue in his right shoulder, Newsday’s Tim Healey reports. The roster move is retroactive to July 12. Steven Matz will open up a two-game series in Minnesota, starting in Wheeler’s place on Tuesday.

As Healey notes, the soonest Wheeler can return is July 23, which would give him at most two starts ahead of the July 31 trade deadline. Wheeler has frequently been brought up in trade conversations as he can become a free agent after the season and the 42-51 Mets have been freefalling.

Wheeler, 29, owns a 4.69 ERA with 130 strikeouts and 34 walks across 119 innings of work this season.