Seattle Mariners

Mariners seem to have their backup catcher, who doubles as a substitute teacher

Seattle Mariners Mike Marjama is congratulated after his home run against the Los Angeles Angels in the eighth inning of a baseball game in Anaheim, Calif., Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017. The Angels won, 6-2.
Seattle Mariners Mike Marjama is congratulated after his home run against the Los Angeles Angels in the eighth inning of a baseball game in Anaheim, Calif., Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017. The Angels won, 6-2. AP

Just about everything has lined up, except for an official announcement, that Mike Marjama is the Mariners’ backup catcher to open the season behind Mike Zunino.

The Mariners optioned David Freitas to Triple-A Tacoma on Sunday all but signaling an end to the competition. The only way Marjama’s not at this point is if the Mariners add Tuffy Gosewisch to the 40-man roster, though he did receive a non-roster invite to major league camp.

Not that Marjama is caught up in any of that.

“I haven’t had official word yet, so until I get called into the office there’s nothing I can do – and at that point nothing will change, anyway,” said Marjama, the 28-year-old former third baseman.

“Making the big-league roster for Opening Day is great, if that’s the case. But that doesn’t mean the work stops or things get easier. You can get sent down at any time, so my work doesn’t change.”

He has all three of his minor league options remaining.

But substituting is nothing new for him. He does that in his other job, too.

Marjama spends his offseason as a substitute teacher, filling in at more than 10 different junior high and high schools near Sacramento and his alma mater, Granite Bay High School.

All his students know about his day job as a professional baseball player.

“A lot of people like to ask questions, especially at the beginning of class,” Marjama said. “It’s fun to do. I love doing it.”

He’s not one of those substitutes who kicks his feet up on the desk and turns on a movie for the class to watch.

He said he was a pre-med major with a communications degree. His father is a science teacher and he’s filled in a few of his classes – even if it’s at Marjama’s rival high school.

“And I’ll actually do a little bit of teaching, too,” Marjama said.

He made his big-league debut with the Mariners last season after arriving in an August trade from the Rays, where he was a Triple-A All-Star with Durham. He finished the season going 3-for-9 with a home run in the five games he appeared in with the Mariners.

He’s had a productive spring, batting .344 (11-for-32) with a .447 on-base percentage while slugging .656 with a pair of home runs and four doubles. Defense, though, was his biggest question.

Freitas entered with the better defensive resume, but Marjama has just one passed ball in 57 total chances this spring. He gunned the Angels’ Zach Cozart out at second base on a stolen-base attempt when Marjama started Sunday’s Cactus League game.

“I think comfort level with the pitching staff is key for him,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “We like what he brings offensively and he’s showed well behind the plate. He’s making adjustments with our pitching. The more he catches our pitchers and the more comfortable he gets with them the better he’ll be. But the other parts of his game are really nice.”

Marjama played third base at Sacramento City College (managed by now Mariners director of player development Andy McKay) amd didn’t start working at catcher until he got into the White Sox farm system as a 23rd-round draft pick in 2011.

“I was really picking guys’ brains, especially from last year with our coaching staff and Skip being a former catcher and Z and Tuff,” Marjama said. “All these guys who are here are really helping me out with things. I’m going to learn from them as much as I can.”

And that won’t stop even if he’s on that Opening Day roster, as he’s expected to be.

“At my point, for me, it’s not about making the team,” he said. “It’s about helping the team win and that’s the goal. We have a goal to make the playoffs and win the World Series and that’s going to take everybody in this clubhouse to do it. My work doesn’t stop when I make the team, it’s going to continue.”


Just when it looked like the Mariners were getting healthier …

It’s not serious, Servais said, but shortstop Jean Segura will miss Wednesday’s game with a sprained thumb after injuring it Saturday after catching a pop fly.

“He caught it off balance and to break his fall he put his thumb down,” Servais said. “We’ll give him a day or two to let that calm down. Hopefully he’ll be OK by the weekend.”

But other than that, the Mariners actually have some good news to report on the injury front. Robinson Cano, Andrew Romine, Ryon Healy and Ichiro Suzuki were all in the Mariners’ lineup on Wednesday to face the Brewers. And Nelson Cruz would have, but they gave the DH spot to Cano to ease him back into playing at second base in his return from a strained hamstring.

Cano returns to the Cactus League lineup after going 2-for-8 in a Triple-A scrimmage on Tuesday, hitting third every inning, though he didn’t really run or play in the field.

Romine, the Mariners’ offseason utility addition, has missed the past week with a partially dislocated left shoulder. He was schedule to play shortstop Wednesday night.

And Ichiro left last Thursday’s game with a leg injury. He’s back and in Wednesday’s lineup in left field looking for his first hit of the spring.


The Mariners claimed left-handed reliever Dario Alvarez off of waivers from the Chicago Cubs, the team announced Wednesday. He was optioned to Triple-A Tacoma and he’ll report to minor league camp on Thursday, upping the Mariners’ 40-man roster to 38 players with a week remaining in spring training.

“We were looking for a guy who could create some depth, bullpen-wise,” Servais said. “(Pitcher) Sam Moll was claimed and he fit into that mix. So it made sense to grab somebody else.”

The 29-year-old Alvarez pitched 16 1/3 innings with the Rangers last season, striking out 17 with a 2.76 ERA.


The Mariners officially announced the signing of right-handed free agent pitcher Erik Goeddel to a minor league contract. He was recently released by the Rangers. They also announced a few acquisitions from the Royals: RHP Ashton Goudeau, LHP Matt Tenuta, LHP Colin Rodgers and RHP David McKay. All four will report to minor league camp.

TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677