SEATTLE — It was supposed to be something minor. Instead, it turned out to be something major.
Seattle Mariners catcher Mike Zunino left Thursday night’s win over Minnesota in the fifth inning because of pain in his left wrist.
Zunino and the Mariners thought it stemmed from taking a couple foul balls off the upper wrist area and was nothing serious.
On Friday morning, they found out it was something far worse.
After undergoing a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exam, Zunino was diagnosed with a broken hamate bone in the wrist and placed on the 15-day disabled list. The injury will require surgery next week. He will be out about six weeks.
“There was a suspicion (Thursday),” Mariners trainer Rick Griffin said. “That’s the reason we ordered the MRI.”
Zunino suffered the fracture swinging and missing at a pitch during the third inning Thursday. He felt the discomfort but finished the at-bat.
“I felt it really on a swing and miss, and then I had a couple more swings after that,” said Zunino, who flew out to center in the at-bat. “I felt it then but just kind of battled through it.”
Zunino caught the fourth inning, and the pain persisted.
“The last inning was the telltale of it all,” he said. “I felt it there and knew something wasn’t right.”
He was replaced by Henry Blanco. Zunino had taken a few foul balls in the area above the hamate bone earlier in the game and a couple of days earlier, so he thought the pain in his wrist was a result of that.
“It’s unfortunate for Mike and for us,” interim manager Robby Thompson said. “It’s one of those freak things. You see it throughout the years with hitters. ”
Ken Griffey Jr. suffered the same injury with the Mariners in 1996.
Zunino will have the hamate bone — which serves no purpose — removed from his wrist during surgery. The expected recovery is five to six weeks.
“That’s a ballpark figure,” Griffin said. “Once the surgeon sees him and determines what he needs to do, we’ll have a better idea. But we’ve had a few guys that have had hamate injuries in the past. Ken Griffey had one and played after 23 days. That was like the far exception. Usually it averages 28-35 days. Once they remove the bone and sutures heal, then they start to work on tolerance, and it just kind of depends on how things go from there.”
To replace Zunino on the roster, the Mariners signed free agent catcher Humberto Quintero. The 33-year-old was designated for assignment by the Phillies on Wednesday.
He appeared in 24 games for Philadelphia, hitting .250 (16-for-64) with two home runs and nine RBI. He arrived at Safeco Field on Friday just after batting practice.
Thompson said he hasn’t quite figured how he will split the playing time between the two veteran catchers. The 41-year-old Blanco, despite being in exceptional physical shape, can’t play more than a handful of times each week.
“We’ll probably split time and do the matchup thing and go from there,” Thompson said. “One thing about it, Henry does know the pitchers now and has caught most of them. So the next guy we bring in here, we’ll pick our spots on how to break him in with our pitching staff.”
Zunino played 29 games for the Mariners, hitting .242 (24-for-99) with four doubles, two home runs and 10 RBI. In his past 11 games, he hit .324 (11-for-34).
“Yeah, it’s frustrating, but it’s just another thing you deal with as a player,” he said. “I’m just going to continue to get better as soon as I can to help them out again.”
Danny Hultzen played catch for first time since being shut down a second time for a rotator cuff strain.
Hultzen threw 41 times from 60 feet. Griffin and pitching coach Carl Willis supervised the session.
This was the start of a revised throwing plan for Hultzen. After Hultzen’s setback during his first recovery, the Mariners looked at everything about Hultzen, including his mechanics, to determine what is causing the irritation.
“The pitching coaches have gone through and analyzed his mechanics from the time he was in college through our big league camp,” Griffin said. ‘They saw a few things they want to work on, and that’s why he’s starting here under the eyes of Carl and people here.”
Griffin didn’t offer any specifics.
“It’s not dramatic,” he said. “They’re just certain things that can create stresses in certain parts of your body if you continue to do them. So we’re trying to put him in a position where he doesn’t repeat something like that, and we think we’ve found a couple things that are going to benefit him so the problems he’s had in the past don’t keep happening.”
Michael Morse, who is on the 15-day disabled list with a right quadriceps injury, played his fifth game with the Tacoma Rainiers on Friday.
Morse is eligible to be activated, but Thompson wants him to get a few more at-bats with the Rainiers before he rejoins the Mariners.
“Hopefully he gets through that with his leg (healthy). I don’t think there’s any issue with that,” Thompson said. “Now it’s just a matter of getting his at-bats and his timing together and seeing pitches. Hopefully in two, three or four days, we’ll see where he’s at.”
When asked whether Morse may be ready to join the team Tuesday in Boston, Thompson replied, “possibly.”
The Mariners will send right-hander Aaron Harang (5-8, 5.06 ERA) to the mound, while the Twins will go with right-hander Samuel Deduno (6-4, 3.50 ERA). First pitch is set for 1:10 p.m. The game will not be televised because of the Fox network national blackout restrictions. The radio broadcast will be on 1030-AM and 710-AM.firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners @RyanDivish