SEATTLE — Wielding one of the few hot bats early this season for the Mariners, catcher Chris Iannetta wants to be in the lineup as much as possible.
But he is also realistic. You don’t want too heavy of a workload in April, and not be strong and producing in September.
“I know it is part of it — it is a long season,” said Iannetta, who turned 33 on Friday — the same day as the Mariners home opener.
“There will be days when you don’t play. There will be matchups that are not favorable. You take the opportunity when you get a chance to rest, and know that every game is important — but it really becomes important down the stretch.”
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Through five games, Iannetta is hitting .364 — his best five-game start since 2012 when he started at .385 for the Los Angeles Angels.
Iannetta has been part of a catching platoon for much of his career — first with Yorvit Torrealba in Colorado, and recently with Hank Conger in Los Angeles.
The most games Iannetta has played in one season is 112, back in 2011 with the Rockies. He saw 426 plate appearances, also a career high.
“If you look at the number of catchers in today’s game that catch 120-130 games, it is not a big number,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “I have done it a couple times in my career, and it is not easy to do. Chris is our regular guy, and he’s off to a good start. I am really happy with the way he is playing.”
For the second time this season, backup catcher Steve Clevenger got the nod behind the plate, batting eighth in the series finale against the Athletics.
There is a term often repeated in baseball — small sample size.
Yes, key regulars in the Mariners’ lineup are off to a slow start — notably first baseman Adam Lind (.091 batting average), third baseman Kyle Seager (.167) and outfielder Nelson Cruz (.211).
All three have track records of better performances early in the season. Heading into 2016, Lind and Cruz were .280 career hitters in March and April. Seager is at .268.
“We’ve got to get some rhythm into what we are doing,” Servais said. “Obviously we have not swung the bats well here at home yet. That is where the focus is moving forward – we have to get better.”
SPEED TO BURN
One of the other early surprises is the lack of success on the basepaths. Seattle has not stolen a base, and has been caught three times.
The Mariners are one of more major league teams that have not stolen a base this season (Angels, Detroit, Philadelphia).
Leadoff hitter Nori Aoki was caught trying to steal second base in last night’s 6-1 loss to the Athletics.
“You’ve got to get guys on bases, that is the thing. And sometimes you can force it, force it, force it, and all of a sudden, you are giving them outs as well,” Servais said.
“We will be who we are. That is who we are. That is how we are built. When we get certain guys on base, we will try and create pressure on the defense.”
WHAT’S IN A NAME
Sometime after he was drafted by the Chicago Cubs, reliever Tony Zych was told if he ever made it to the major leagues, he would immediately become part of history.
With his last name — Zych — he comes last alphabetically of all the players who have ever been in the majors.
“There have been a lot of ‘Zs’ that have been competition,” Zych said, “but that (second-letter) ‘Y’ seals it up pretty good.”
Zych said the only other player in a major league organization he has played whose last name started with Z is here in Seattle – Mike Zunino.
The right-hander said his name is of Polish descent.
Heading into the Sunday finale, ace Felix Hernandez is 22-8 with a 2.64 earned run average for his career against the Athletics. His .733 winning percentage against Oakland is fifth-best all time. … Also, Hernandez will have made his 336th appearance with the Mariners, snapping the tie with Mike Jackson (335) for second-most pitching appearances in team history. Jeff Nelson is atop the list with 432 games.