SEATTLE -- Mariners catcher Mike Zunino was scratched from the Opening Day lineup three hours before game time on Thursday due to some stiffness in his right side, but backup Mike Marjama took his place behind the plate and did an excellent job working with Felix Hernandez for the first
SEATTLE -- Mariners catcher Mike Zunino was scratched from the Opening Day lineup three hours before game time on Thursday due to some stiffness in his right side, but backup Mike Marjama took his place behind the plate and did an excellent job working with Felix Hernandez for the first time while helping Seattle top the Cleveland Indians, 2-1.
Marjama was shaken up after getting hit in the glove hand by Edwin Encarnacion's bat on a catcher's interference in the second inning, but stayed in the game after a visit from the training staff.
"Marjama might have been the MVP of the game for me," manager Scott Servais said. "Just throwing him right out there, and handling Felix the way he did and really all the guys out of the bullpen.
"It was a great night for our pitching staff, and I have to give Marjama a ton of credit. Especially when he got hit on the catcher's interference. I was a little scared of where we were going to go at that point, but he really gutted it out for us."
Servais said Zunino could have come into the game in an emergency, and utility man Andrew Romine has caught a little in the past, but Marjama said he was having none of that.
"I didn't have an option," Marjama said. "We don't really have anybody else right now. It was just [time to] suck it up and keep going."
Zunino felt a twinge in his second-to-last swing of batting practice during a workout Wednesday at Safeco Field. The issue is believed to be minor, but with an off-day on Friday, the Mariners felt it best to give the 26-year-old two days to heal so the problem doesn't linger.
Marjama is on an Opening Day roster for the first time in his career. He made his Major League debut for Seattle last September, playing five games and going 3-for-9 with a double and home run. The 28-year-old made the club after beating out David Freitas for the backup job this spring.
Zunino posted a .251/.331/.509 line with 25 home runs and 64 RBIs in 124 games last year and was one of the Mariners' top hitters this spring, batting .395 with five homers in 43 at-bats.
He is hopeful he'll be able to play on Saturday.
"I'm going to come in tomorrow and see how it feels," Zunino said. "I feel better today than I did yesterday. Hopefully this thing keeps progressing."
Iwakuma, Ramirez progressing
Hisashi Iwakuma threw a 26-pitch bullpen session prior to Thursday's game at Safeco Field as the veteran right-hander continues progressing ahead of schedule in his return from right shoulder surgery in September.
The 36-year-old wasn't initially expected back until near midseason, but he's already thrown two bullpen sessions and will throw again Sunday, according to manager Scott Servais, with the expectation now that he'll be able to continue rehabbing with Triple-A Tacoma when the Rainiers begin their season on April 5.
Right-hander Erasmo Ramirez is scheduled to throw a bullpen session on Saturday as he continues working back from a right lat strain that has sidelined him since mid-February. The Mariners remain hopeful Ramirez can rejoin the rotation in late April.
"He'll get ramped up a little quicker because he's not coming back from major injury like Kuma," Servais said. "But both those guys will get out and start their rehab assignments very soon."
Things are also looking up for left fielder Ben Gamel, who again took batting practice with the team and was making outfield throws as well as he recovers from a strained right oblique. Gamel initially was expected to be out until the end of April, but could be back sooner if he continues progressing.
Finding time for Vogelbach
Servais acknowledged that it's not going to be easy to find at-bats for backup first baseman Daniel Vogelbach, despite a red-hot spring in which he posted a .407/.458/.791 line with seven home runs in 54 at-bats.
Even though the Indians are starting a trio of right-handers in the first series - with Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer following Opening Day starter Corey Kluber this weekend -- Servais sounds as if he's leaning toward keeping Ryon Healy in the lineup instead of the lefty-swinging Vogelbach.
"It's going to be a challenge. Ryon Healy is swinging the bat well and has a good track record against both Carrasco and Bauer here the rest of the series," Servais said. "We'll take a look at it, the eye test a little bit with Healy and where he's at with his hand. So far he hasn't had any setbacks and no issues.
"I would like to keep Vogey going, but Ryon Healy is our first baseman and we'll run him out there and hopefully get him going quick. We've talked a lot about Vogey and he had an unbelievable spring. I don't want him to lose any of that and I don't think we will. There'll be some opportunities here."
Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB