Mariners notebook: Mike Zunino, Nori Aoki are back to play
The Mariners made six roster moves before the homestand finale Wednesday afternoon, activating Felix Hernandez from the disabled list, recalling Mike Zunino and Nori Aoki from Triple-A, and optioning David Rollins, Jesus Sucre and Daniel Robertson to Tacoma.
With the moves, the roster better resembles what we saw coming out of spring training. Now what?
For Felix, it is simple: he will pitch every five days. While manager Scott Servais is still deciding what he will do with the rotation with three off days in the next 10, Felix is on the schedule – in ink – every fifth day.
On Wednesday he’s throwing to Mike Zunino, who is here to play. His role will be more than what we saw from the backups earlier in the year.
“We will kind of mix and match with Chris (Iannetta),” Servais said. “It will be more than once or twice a week.”
“The year of Mike Zunino,” as it has been called by both Servais and general manager Jerry Dipoto, now continues at the big-league level. In addition to the changes Zunino has made with his swing and approach, Servais has seen a change with Zunino’s mentality as well. Servais hopes he doesn’t feel that the responsibility of handling all of the pitchers falls solely on Zunino’s shoulders.
“I think some of the pressure has been taken off,” Servais said. “He doesn’t have to be Johnny Bench. He doesn’t need to do that anymore. We’ve got Chris here and knowing Chris and his makeup, he’s going to help him. I think one of the issues early on is maybe he put a little too much pressure on himself. Just go play. Just go have fun. We will take our chances. He’s got talent; we do know that.”
As for Aoki, his role could be a little different than what it was at the beginning of the season.
“We are going to play him,” Servais said. “I don’t know if it will be every day, but certainly against the right-handers and pick our spots against the lefties.”
Ideally for the Mariners, Aoki bounces back to his remarkably consistent, pre-Seattle form. If that happens, then a big lineup problem is solved.
“We’ve struggled finding a leadoff guy,” Servais pointed out. “We wanted to run Ketel (Marte) through that spot but he’s been down and we haven’t had an opportunity to do that. I’m not sure who it is yet but Aoki will be there today. You have got to have a good at-bat. For whatever reason, that one spot has been tough for us this year.”
• With Felix back in the rotation, Wade LeBlanc will be available in the bullpen for the short-term.
• Marte was in the clubhouse Wednesday morning and said he does not feel much better after being out with an illness. While the hope was he would be able to travel with the team to Toronto after Wednesday’s game, that decision has been put on hold until he sees the doctor. He has lost about six pounds, which is a concern. This will be the third straight day the Mariners have played without a backup at shortstop, and they cannot do that on the road. “Probably in an emergency we could slide (Kyle) Seager over there and make due, but we will need to make a decision shortly on that,” Servais said.