SEATTLE -- Félix Hernández returned to the Mariners' roster for the first time in seven weeks on Wednesday, and he was joined by catcher Mike Zunino and left fielder Norichika Aoki as general manager Jerry Dipoto made a series of roster moves prior to the series finale with the White
SEATTLE -- Félix Hernández returned to the Mariners' roster for the first time in seven weeks on Wednesday, and he was joined by catcher Mike Zunino and left fielder Norichika Aoki as general manager Jerry Dipoto made a series of roster moves prior to the series finale with the White Sox.
Hernandez was activated off the 15-day disabled list to start the final game of the homestand after dealing with a strained right calf that sidelined him since late May. To make room on the roster, the Mariners optioned left-handed reliever David Rollins to Triple-A Tacoma, along with catcher Jesús Sucre and outfielder Daniel Robertson. Hernandez allowed five runs over 6 2/3 innings as the Mariners rallied for a 6-5, walk-off win in 11 innings over the White Sox.
Zunino and Aoki were recalled to bolster a roster that had lost eight of its past 12 games before Wednesday's win. Aoki spent the past three weeks in Tacoma, where the 34-year-old posted a .369/.440/.431 line and was 3-for-3 in stolen-base attempts.
Aoki opened the season as the Mariners' leadoff hitter after signing as a free agent, but he hit just .245/.323/.313 in 67 games and was 4-for-11 on stolen-base attempts.
"I don't know if he'll play every day, but certainly against right-handers and pick our spots against the lefties," manager Scott Servais said. "Nori has been great. He's done everything we asked when he went down there. It's hard for a veteran player to do that, but he's a good teammate and worked his tail off. He's a big league player, we just have to get him back and going right here."
Zunino, the third overall Draft pick in 2012, has spent most of the season in Triple-A working on his offensive game after struggling in that regard the previous three years in Seattle. But he's posted a .286/.376/.521 line with 17 homers and 57 RBIs in 79 games in Tacoma, and he's expected to split time at catcher with veteran Chris Iannetta.
"We'll kind of mix-and-match him and Chris," Servais said. "It'll be more than just a once or twice a week scenario going forward."
Zunino appeared in two games for the Mariners just before the All-Star break, hitting a pair of home runs in seven at-bats, but he was sent back down in order to get regular playing time. Sucre took his spot in the ensuing stretch, and he was 1-for-8 at the plate in three games. Zunino hit a two-run homer in Wednesday's win.
Servais said Zunino's extended time in the Minors this year was necessary to allow him to hone his offensive approach.
"I've said all along, this season is about Mike Zunino and putting him in a good spot to get back on track," Servais said. "And he's made some strides. We've seen him do a better job controlling the strike zone. I think he's handling situational hitting a little better. Some of the pressure has been taken off.
"It's just going out and playing, just be Mike. You don't have to be Johnny Bench or any of that stuff. I think we've done a good job as an organization staying true to that. Just be Mike Zunino. We're more than happy with that. Do your thing catching and working with the pitchers, swing the bat, control the strike zone. We'll take our chances."
Rollins has gone 1-0 with a 4.05 ERA in eight relief appearances over three stints with Seattle, while Robertson hit .263 (5-for-19) in nine games after he was selected from Tacoma on July 5.
Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter [
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