Mariners notebook: Mike Zunino, Nori Aoki are back to play

Jul 20, 2016, 12:35 PM | Updated: 10:35 pm

Scott Servais says Mike Zunino has gotten away from the approach that was working for him earlier i...

Scott Servais says Mike Zunino has gotten away from the approach that was working for him earlier in the season. (AP)


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.

Mariners Roof Report

Brought to you by
Partly Sunny
High 63° | Low 47°
Mariners are on the road.
Mariners at Orioles today at 4:05pm

Shannon Drayer

Seattle Mariners Josh Rojas Julio Rodríguez...

Shannon Drayer

Drayer: Rojas helping Julio an example of Mariners’ offense evolving

"This might be the hardest working team I have had since we got here," ninth-year Seattle Mariners manager Scott Servais said. Shannon Drayer dives into how.

1 day ago

Seattle Mariners Luis Urías...

Shannon Drayer

Drayer: Mariners’ 3B platoon has taken off, and earned more action

The Seattle Mariners' third base combination of Josh Rojas and Luis Urías has been among the best in the AL, and one half was glad to play in the outfield to get them both in the lineup.

12 days ago

Seattle Mariners Jonatan Clase...

Shannon Drayer

Drayer: Why Mariners are sending Jonatan Clase back to Triple-A

The Seattle Mariners have optioned Jonatan Clase to Triple-A and recalled Sam Haggerty ahead of Monday's series opener with Atlanta.

18 days ago

Seattle Mariners Cal Raleigh Josh Rojas Jonatan Clase Mitch Garver...

Shannon Drayer

Drayer: Mariners break down keys to their turnaround on offense

The Seattle Mariners have won two straight series, and an offensive turnaround has been a big part of it. Shannon Drayer has the story.

25 days ago

Seattle Mariners Dominic Canzone...

Shannon Drayer

The interesting story behind big series by Mariners’ Dominic Canzone

The Seattle Mariners' Dominic Canzone shook off a rocky start to the season by going 5 for 13 with two home runs on the road trip. How?

1 month ago

Seattle Mariners Toronto Blue Jays...

Shannon Drayer

Seattle Mariners Notebook: Will dramatic win give M’s a jump?

Cal Raleigh and Scott Servais react to Wednesday's Seattle Mariners win in extra innings, Mitch Haniger weighs in on the offense's struggles and more.

1 month ago

Mariners notebook: Mike Zunino, Nori Aoki are back to play