The Seattle Mariners shook up their catching situation on Friday, signing free agent Henry Blanco to a major league contract and designating Kelly Shoppach for assignment. Blanco will split time with rookie Mike Zunino, who was called up to the majors earlier in the week.
The 41-year old Blanco, who signed with the Toronto Blue Jays as a free agent in January, has appeared in 15 games for Toronto this season, posting a .184/.262/.263 line in 43 plate appearances. He was designated for assignment to make room on the Jays' 40-man roster for Josh Thole on June 7th, and released four days later.
In sixteen major league seasons with the Dodgers (1997), Rockies (1999), Brewers (2000-2001), Braves (2002-2003), Twins (2004), Cubs (2005-2008), Padres (2009), Mets (2010), Diamondbacks (2011-2012), and Blue Jays (2013), the veteran has hit .226 with 69 HR and 284 RBI.
Shoppach, who assumed the starting catching role after Jesus Montero's demotion, is hitting .196 with 3 HR and 9 RBI on the season after signing with Seattle during the winter. He will be traded, released, claimed off waivers, or outrighted to the minors in the next ten days.
With Shoppach out of the picture, the starting catching job is clearly in the hands of Zunino, the third overall pick in last year's draft. The 22-year old, who was hitting .238 with 11 HR and 43 RBI on the year for Triple-A Tacoma, was 1-for-4 in his major league debut, and will likely rely on Blanco as a mentor in his rookie season. With Montero and Jesus Sucre sidelined due to injury, the Mariners will rely on Zunino to produce in a position that has been very weak for the team so far this season.