Early on Sunday morning, catcher Chris Iannetta celebrated his well-deserved day off from the Mariners lineup by lining up a quality FaceTime conversation from his clubhouse cubicle with his wife, Lisa, and their daughter, Ashlyn.
Despite starting the season on a hitting tear — his .364 clip is his best five-game start since 2012 — Iannetta has grown to appreciate a break from bending, squatting and calling pitches from behind the plate.
“I know (getting days off) is part of it — it is a long season. There are going to be days where you don’t play. There are going to be matchups that aren’t favorable. There are going to be situations where (backup Steve Clevenger) is catching a certain guy — all factors,” said Iannetta, who turned 33 on Friday.
“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, and that is when you want to be healthy.”
A 10-year veteran, Iannetta signed a one-year contract last November to become the Mariners’ regular catcher, supplanting not-ready-for-the-majors Mike Zunino.
Manager Scott Servais, a former catcher, has maintained that Iannetta’s playing time will nearly mirror what his career norms have been — roughly 350-400 plate appearances in 100-110 games.
“If you look at the number of catchers in today’s game that catch 120-130 games, it is not a big number,” 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.”
Iannetta has been part of a catching platoon for much of his career — first with Yorvit Torrealba in Colorado, and recently with Hank Congerin Los Angeles.
The most games that Iannetta has played in one season is 112, in 2011 with the Rockies. He had 426 plate appearances, also a career high.
“I want to play every day,” Iannetta said. “I think I can still play every day. It has never been a physical thing. It has been more about performance and matchups.”
Early-season production could be a reason for Servais to keep Iannetta in the starting lineup for more than back-to-back days.
But that is not how Iannetta’s playing career has panned out. In fact, over the past two seasons with the Angels, the Rhode Island native has caught a full game for four consecutive days only twice.
“It is more the way the game is evolving playing matchups,” Iannetta said. “I am in as good of shape as I was when 26, 27 or 28 years old. From a physical standpoint, I have no problem doing it.”
There is a term often repeated in baseball — small sample size.
Yes, key regulars in the Mariners’ lineup are off to a slow start, heading into Sunday — 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.”
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 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 that only once has he been part of a major league organization with another player whose last name started with the letter “Z” — the franchise is the Mariners and the other player is Mike Zunino.
The Mariners right-hander said his name is of Polish descent.
QUICK TRIP HOME FOR VOGT
Following a brief detour to spring training, Oakland catcher Stephen Vogt got a trip home almost immediately.
Well, it is to his second home: Vogt, a Visalia, California, native, now lives in Tumwater with his wife, Alyssa, who is the girls basketball coach at Tumwater High School.
“I do feel a sense of home when I come to Seattle,” Vogt said.
“I grew up three hours from Oakland, so it’s kind of nice to be close to my home. But when we come up here, it’s something kind of special because (I see) the friends and family I see in the winter time.”
Vogt is beginning his fourth season with Oakland. He has lived in Washington for six years.
The date — April 11, 1990 — won’t be one that Mariners fans will like to recall. But former Seattle pitcher Mark Langston (seven innings) and reliever Mike Witt combined to no-hit the Mariners in an Angels’ 1-0 win.
It was the first no-hitter in which the Mariners had been involved.
Staff writer Lauren Smith contributed to this report.