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Mariners notebook: Multiple reasons for catcher swap

The Jesus Sucre era is officially underway. Players were clearly shocked by the news Monday night that John Buck had been designated for assignment, but on Tuesday it was back to work as usual. That’s how it is in baseball, and Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon understands that.

“I get that,” he answered when asked if the move has any risk regarding the clubhouse. “I was a player. When you lose friends you are never happy, but when it is all said and done you are glad it was not you. You talk about team chemistry and stuff? You win games, chemistry is just fine. You lose games, you got bad chemistry. And that’s not to take anything away from John Buck. He’s a nice young man and I wish him well. Hopefully he will catch on with somebody.”

As I wrote Monday night, defense was the concern with Buck and McClendon believes Sucre’s defense will benefit the club.

“I think he is one of those shutdown type catchers,” McClendon said. “Throwing out over 50 percent of his runners, a tremendous receiver, blocks well. I think he just adds to the value of our pitching and what we are trying to accomplish.”

Something else he was looking for was the opportunity to give a bit more rest to Mike Zunino, who is third in innings caught in the American League in his first full year.

“That’s one thing I am very conscious of and we have got to be careful with his innings moving forward, making sure that we give him the proper amount of rest,” McClendon said. “With the kind of defensive catcher we think we have in Sucre, we don’t have to worry about who’s pitching that day as far as giving them rest.”

The move at the big-league level triggered two more moves further down in the organization. John Hicks was called up to Triple-A Tacoma and Steve Baron to Double-A Jackson. This sets up a interesting possibility for the Mariners perhaps in the near future. With a little big-league exposure, there could be trade interest in the 26-year-old Sucre. In years past, scouts I have talked to have expressed interest in him. Obviously a backup catcher alone wouldn’t bring much, but if Hicks progresses decently with the bat in Tacoma – he is a plus defensive catcher as well – he could be an option to back up Zunino. Of course, things get thin at that point if there is an injury, but it is something to keep in the back of your mind as the deadline approaches.


James Paxton threw a 32-pitch simulated game Tuesday, mixing in all of his pitches. According to both Paxton and pitching coach Rick Waits, all went very well. Paxton is scheduled to throw a three-inning, 50-pitch simulated game later this week and then a decision will be made to either throw a third simulated game or get a rehab start next week, most likely at Single-A Everett.

• The starter for Thursday’s series finale against Minnesota is still listed as TBA.

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