Mariners catcher Mike Zunino has been placed on the 10-day disabled list with a left oblique strain, the club announced Friday. Zunino reportedly sustained the injury during batting practice on Wednesday and had yet to make his season debut for Seattle. At this point, it’s not clear exactly how long his recovery process will take.
The 27-year-old was pegged to be the Mariners’ starting backstop again this season. He made a strong showing in camp with a .395/.458/.791 batting line and five home runs in 17 Cactus League games with the club. This is the first time he’s landed on the disabled list in five years, when he missed six weeks of the 2013 season after undergoing wrist surgery. It’s possible that his oblique injury won’t require such a lengthy recovery; then again, MLB.com’s Greg Johns points out that both Mitch Haniger and Ben Gamel were sidelined between 4-6 weeks with similar injuries. Either way, it’s clear the Mariners will have to get creative as they try to compensate for his loss.
A corresponding move was made to recall catcher David Freitas from Triple-A Tacoma on Friday. The Mariners also have rookie Mike Marjama waiting in the wings, though neither catcher has Zunino’s extensive major league experience behind the dish. Marjama took the reins on Thursday and went 0-for-3 with a strikeout against the Indians’ Corey Kluber. Freitas is expected to join the team on Saturday and will likely make his first start of the season sometime afterwards.
Some good news for the Nationals today: All-Star hurler Max Scherzer is due back from the injured list this week, this time (hopefully) for good. He’s slated to start during Thursday’s series finale against the Pirates.
It’s been a long road back for the right-hander, who earned his seventh consecutive All-Star designation after heading into the break with a 2.30 ERA, 5.6 fWAR, and a league-leading 7.56 SO/BB rate. An untimely back injury forced him to the injured list in the days leading up to the All-Star Game, however, and he hasn’t returned in any kind of part-time or full-time capacity since.
While Scherzer was originally expected to pitch for the Nationals sometime during their weekend series versus the Brewers, manager Dave Martinez elected to push back his return date by a few days. It’s not clear whether he felt some lingering pain during his 64-pitch simulated start on Saturday or whether the Nationals simply want to play it safe with their ace, but either way, the club apparently feels like Scherzer will be back to full strength before the end of the week.
If so, his return would be a significant asset to the Nationals, who could use a sub-3.00 ERA, 5.0-fWAR starter to help bolster their standing in the NL East. Still, there’s no guarantee that the veteran righty is ready to shoulder a full-time role in Washington’s rotation, nor is it certain that he’ll be able to match his results from the first half of the season. In one start between IL stints last month, he dealt five innings of three-run, two-walk, eight-strikeout ball in an 8-7 loss to the Rockies.