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Zunino makes season debut after DL stint

Marjama optioned to Triple-A with Freitas earning backup role
Special to MLB.com

ARLINGTON -- Opening Day came three weeks late for Mike Zunino, who had a strong spring but was injured just one day before the season began. The Mariners' primary catcher was activated from the disabled list Friday and in the lineup against the Rangers for the opener of a three-game series.

"The day before the season starts -- [it was] the most excited I've been, knowing that I'm going to be able to come in here and help this team ... you prepare all offseason, all spring for it, and for that day to finally be here, even though it's a few weeks later, it's nice that it's finally here," said Zunino, who went 0-for-4 in the Mariners' 6-2 victory over the Rangers on Friday night.

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ARLINGTON -- Opening Day came three weeks late for Mike Zunino, who had a strong spring but was injured just one day before the season began. The Mariners' primary catcher was activated from the disabled list Friday and in the lineup against the Rangers for the opener of a three-game series.

"The day before the season starts -- [it was] the most excited I've been, knowing that I'm going to be able to come in here and help this team ... you prepare all offseason, all spring for it, and for that day to finally be here, even though it's a few weeks later, it's nice that it's finally here," said Zunino, who went 0-for-4 in the Mariners' 6-2 victory over the Rangers on Friday night.

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He had been sidelined with a strained left oblique since sustaining the injury during a workout on March 28. The backstop enjoyed an excellent Spring Training in which he belted five home runs and compiled a 1.249 OPS over 43 at-bats.

"I was feeling really good -- it was one of those crazy, fluke things that happened," said Zunino, who returned from a rehab assignment at Class A Advanced Modesto. "I'm still feeling good, getting my timing down and just in the cage [before Friday's game], feeling good. I'm looking forward to hopefully carrying that into these games."

Zunino hit a career-high 25 homers and set a career-best .840 OPS over 124 games with the Mariners last season. He enters his sixth season in the Majors, all with Seattle, and has improved drastically as a hitter over the past two years. He posted a slash line of .193/.252/.353 in 295 games over his first three seasons but has progressed to .238/.327/.497 in 179 games over the past two years.

Still, manager Scott Servais said Zunino's experience behind the plate matters even more than his bat.

"It's good to have Z back," Servais said. "What he does in the lineup, but probably more importantly just the familiarity with our pitching staff and the league. He was in a really good spot [after Spring Training]. He was really swinging the bat well and he was primed to get off to a good start, unfortunately things happened and hopefully it doesn't derail his season."

The Mariners decided Friday that David Freitas would serve as their backup catcher, optioning Mike Marjama to Triple-A Tacoma.

Freitas, 29, is hitting .286 (8-for-28) with four doubles in 11 games this season. Marjama, 28, batted .111 (3-for-27) in 10 games.

Freitas reached base in each of his nine starts, including seven games with a hit. In his past five games with an at-bat, he has gone 6-for-16 (.374) with three runs, three doubles and an RBI.

"I thought [Freitas], with the kind of stability he's brought behind the plate, he's played a little bit better and he kind of won the opportunity to stay here," Servais said.

"I thought he did a really nice job with Marco Gonzales, he's caught all of [James Paxton's] outings, he worked it with Mike Leake last time, so he's been really good with our pitchers. He's done OK with the bat, you have to give him credit."

Healy starts rehab assignment
First baseman Ryon Healy has been out since April 7 with a sprained right ankle sustained in a postgame workout but will begin a rehab assignment at Double-A Arkansas on Friday night, Servais said.

"It could be two, three, four games, not quite sure yet, we'll see how it goes," Servais said. "He's moving around OK. He needs to get some at-bats, get some timing down there before we bring him back on this trip."

Rangers, Mariners honor baseball fan Barbara Bush
The clubs observed a moment of silence before Friday's game to mark the passing of former First Lady Barbara Bush, a devoted baseball fan who often came to Rangers games with her husband, former President George H.W. Bush, and her son, former President George W. Bush. The younger Bush was the managing partner of the Rangers' ownership group from 1989-94 until he ran for and won the governorship of Texas.

Tweet from @Rangers: #RIP, Barbara. pic.twitter.com/WlGxRxI2y4

Barbara Bush, who died Wednesday at 92, frequently kept score when she attended games. She even threw out the first pitch at the old Arlington Stadium in 1989 shortly after becoming First Lady.

Dave Sessions is a contributor to MLB.com based in Texas.

Seattle Mariners, Mike Zunino