SEATTLE — Catcher Jesus Sucre hopes to last a little longer than 11 days now that he’s back in the big leagues.
The Mariners, as expected, recalled Sucre, 26, from Triple-A Tacoma prior to Tuesday’s game against the Minnesota Twins at Safeco Field. The move follows the late Monday decision to designate John Buck for assignment.
The move is viewed by club officials as a major defensive upgrade over Buck as a backup to starting catcher Mike Zunino.
“He’s proven he’s a solid backup catcher who receives the ball well and blocks well,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “He pretty much just shuts down the running game. “
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Sucre threw out 21 of 41 opponents attempting to steal bases in Tacoma.
“I’ve been working really hard with my defense down there,” Sucre said “especially with my footwork and throwing the ball to second.”
Further, his bat figures to be no worse than a push; Buck batted .226 in 27 games with one homer and six RBIs.
“That was always the point of concern coming through the minor leagues,” McClendon said. “But he’s actually, in talking to people at the Triple-A level, swung the bat extremely well.
“I think he’s going to be a plus in that department.”
Sucre, who bats and throws right-handed, arrives after batting .274 in 48 games for the Rainiers with two homers and 16 RBIs. He was batting .375 over his last 10 games.
Sucre (whose name is pronounced SUE-cray) made his major-league debut last season with the Mariners and made eight starts before suffering a left wrist injury on June 4 that ended his season.
“I had a little fracture last year in my hand,” he said, “and I couldn’t get back.”
The Mariners acquired Sucre, a Venezuelan native, by signing him as a minor-league free agent on July 19, 2011. He spent the previous six-plus seasons in the Atlanta system.
In corresponding moves, the Mariners promoted catcher John Hicks to Tacoma from Double-A Jackson, and activated Steve Baron at Hi-A High Desert and promoted him to Jackson.
Left-hander James Paxton moved one step closer to returning from his extended stay on the disabled list by experiencing no problems in throwing 32 pitches over two innings of a simulated game.
“It went really well,” he said. “Arm is feeling great. Really loose. Some good rhythm out there. Pitches were coming along really well.
“Obviously, I have a little fine-tuning to do. But for the first sim game, I thought it was really good.”
Paxton won his first two starts this season before a strained back muscle April 8 against the Angels forced him to the disabled list. He made one rehab start May 25 for Tacoma but shoulder soreness put him back on the shelf.
His latest recovery effort — so far — is going smoothly.
“He threw all four pitches (in the simulated game),” pitching coach Rick Waits said, “and they were all good. Good timing. He’s been working a lot on his timing, and his timing was excellent today.”
Plans call for Paxton to throw 50 pitches Saturday in three simulated innings. After that, club personnel will determine whether he requires a third simulated game or can be sent on a rehab assignment.
If he departs after Saturday, Paxton will likely head to Short-A Everett for one start because Tacoma will be on the Triple-A All-Star break.
Outfielder Michael Saunders, who batted leadoff again Tuesday, seems to have found a home in the top one-third of the lineup.
A .266 hitter overall in 62 games, Saunders is batting .303 (33-for-109) in 31 games while batting leadoff (13 games), second (15) or third (three) in the lineup.
Saunders also five homers and 21 RBIs in those 31 games. He has just one homer and seven RBIs in 75 at-bats when not batting in the top one-third of the lineup.
Hisashi Iwakuma, Danny Farquhar and Fernando Rodney combined to record 14 strikeouts without issuing a walk in Monday’s 2-0 victory over the Twins.
It marked just the third time in franchise history that Mariners’ pitchers had 14 or more strikeouts without allowing a walk. Iwakuma had 10 strikeouts, while Farquhar and Rodney each had two.
The three previous times occasions:
*Randy Johnson struck out 19 without a walk in a 4-1 loss to Oakland on June 24, 1997.
*Johnson (15) and Norm Charlton (two) combined for 17 strikeouts on June 14, 1993 in a 6-3 victory over Kansas City.
*Mark Langston had 16 strikeouts and no walks in a complete game on May 10, 1988 in a 4-2 victory at Toronto.
Iwakuma joined some select company Monday by getting the victory after pitching seven shutout innings against the Twins. In doing so, he pushed his career record to 30-15 while lowering his ERA to 2.89.
Only two other pitchers over the last 25 years reached 30 victories with 15 or fewer losses and a sub-3.00 ERA: Mike Mussina (30-12, 2.68) and Roy Oswalt (30-9, 2.90).
Iwakuma also improved to 5-0 against the Twins without allowing an earned run. The last pitcher to do that was Larry Jaster of the Cardinals, who threw five shutouts against the Dodgers in 1966.
McClendon said he isn’t yet ready to announce a starter for Thursday’s series finale against the Twins. The slot became open when he opted to push back Felix Hernandez by one day in order to have him face first-place Oakland…Several clubs, including Milwaukee, are showing interest in right-hander Erasmo Ramirez, whose next scheduled start is Friday for Tacoma…The Mariners entered Tuesday with a 42-27 record since April 23. Only two teams are better — but both are in the American League West. Oakland was 43-26, and Los Angeles was 42-26.
Double-A Jackson third baseman D.J. Peterson is the only Mariners’ prospect to crack Baseball America’s midseason Top 50 rankings. Peterson was ranked 46th.
Two other players ranked by the magazine in its preseason Top 100, pitchers Taijuan Walker and James Paxton, are on the big-league club. Paxton is currently on the disabled list because of a strained back muscle.
Peterson, 22, was the club’s first-round pick in 2013. He was recently promoted to Jackson from Hi-A High Desert and is batting .320 overall in 77 games with 20 homers and 79 RBIs.
It was four years ago Wednesday — July 9, 2010 — that the Mariners traded pitchers Cliff Lee and Mark Lowe to Texas for first baseman Justin Smoak, infielder Matt Lawson and pitchers Blake Beavan and Josh Lueke.
The Mariners and Twins continue their four-game series at 7:10 p.m. Wednesday at Safeco Field. Left-hander Roenis Elias (7-7 with a 4.19 ERA) will face Minnesota right-hander Kyle Gibson (7-7, 4.17).
The series concludes Thursday night. The Mariners then conclude their pre-break schedule with three weekend home game against Oakland.