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New catcher Murphy in line to start Saturday

Mariners get backstop from Giants for Minor League pitcher
@gregjohnsmlb
March 29, 2019

SEATTLE -- Tom Murphy has been patiently awaiting his opportunity for several years with the Rockies, but he won’t have to sit long before getting a shot with the Mariners after being acquired in a trade on Friday. Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto has been looking to add depth to

SEATTLE -- Tom Murphy has been patiently awaiting his opportunity for several years with the Rockies, but he won’t have to sit long before getting a shot with the Mariners after being acquired in a trade on Friday.

Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto has been looking to add depth to his catching ranks and addressed that situation by acquiring the 27-year-old backstop from the Giants for Minor League pitcher Jesus Ozoria.

Manager Scott Servais said Murphy could be in the lineup as soon as Saturday night against Red Sox southpaw Eduardo Rodriguez as the Mariners look to platoon him with the left-handed-hitting Omar Narváez.

Backup catcher David Freitas was optioned to Triple-A Tacoma to make room for Murphy on the 25-man roster. Murphy arrived prior to Friday night’s game against the Red Sox at T-Mobile Park and immediately began undertaking a crash course to familiarize himself with Saturday starter Mike Leake.

Murphy, who turns 28 next week, played parts of the past four seasons for the Rockies before being claimed off waivers by the Giants on Monday. But San Francisco didn’t keep him on its final 25-man roster and designated him for assignment on Thursday.

“This last week or so has been a whirlwind,” he said. “But it feels like I’m at home here already, so it’s nice.”

The former third-round Draft pick posted a slash line of .219/.271/.439, with 10 homers and 34 RBIs in parts of four seasons with the Rockies. He played 37 games with Colorado last season, hitting .226 with two homers and 11 RBIs in 96 plate appearances.

“He struggled to get an opportunity to play a lot and didn’t get much going, but our scouts had really good reports on him and thought it was an area we could add some depth organizationally,” Servais said. “He’s got power. Catching-wise, we’ll try to get him up to speed with our pitchers and get him out there.”

Murphy has hit well in Triple-A, with a .286/.335/.567 line with 47 homers in 215 games over four seasons with Triple-A Albuquerque in the Pacific Coast League and was well-regarded prospect in the Rockies’ system, though his progress was slowed by a rotator cuff injury in 2014, a strained oblique in ’16 and a fractured right forearm in ’17.

He’ll get a chance now to make up for lost time as the Mariners intend to give him an opportunity to show what he can do at the Major League level in tandem with Narvaez, who is targeted to catch about 100 games.

Murphy was already watching film and talking with his new pitching staff on Friday in an effort to fast-forward the process as much as possible.

“It’s getting to know them, how they tick, what they throw in certain counts, watching video and making sure I know exactly what their game plans are against different hitters and making sure I’m on the same page with those guys,” he said. “Because that’s what is going to fuel our team.”

The Mariners only had two other catchers -- Narvaez and Freitas -- on their 40-man roster. Freitas has Minor League options, while Murphy is out of options and would have to be DFA'd before being sent down to Triple-A Tacoma.

Freitas started Seattle’s home opener on Thursday when Servais went with as many right-handed hitters as possible against Red Sox lefty Chris Sale. The 30-year-old went 0-for-2 and drove in a run with a bases-loaded walk in the Mariners’ 12-4 win in his first action of the season. He hit .215/.277/.312 in 36 games last year after being selected off waivers from the Braves.

Ozoria, a 20-year-old right-hander, pitched for the Mariners’ Dominican Summer League team the last two years. He was 5-3 with a 2.19 ERA in 14 games (five starts) last season, with 59 strikeouts and seven walks in 49 1/3 innings.

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.