BY John Hickey 12:04AM 06/29/2011

Hickey: Mariners in desperate need of catchers

Seattle is looking to the minor leagues for backstop help with Miguel Olivo and Chris Gimenez hurt.

Miguel Olivo may be out of action for a while after suffering cramps Tuesday. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

The Mariners may have lost both of their catchers, at least in the short term, to injury.

Starter Miguel Olivo came out of the game in the fourth inning with cramps Tuesday night and spent the rest of a 5-4 loss to the Atlanta Braves getting rehydrated.

Backup Chris Gimenez came into the game one out into the fourth believing that the pain in his left side he felt in batting practice was nothing serious. Instead it turned out to be a strained oblique muscle, which he’ll have a MRI on Wednesday morning.

A standard oblique injury generally will sideline a player for four weeks or more, and Gimenez should not have been playing. But the Mariners didn’t have another choice except emergency catcher Adam Kennedy, an infielder, and Gimenez said after the game he could “look in AK’s eyes and know he didn’t want to be in there.’’

For Wednesday’s 12:40 p.m. start in the series finale against the Braves, the Mariners are going to attempt to bring a minor league catcher to take over for a day or four or more. The trouble is the Mariner minor league catching situation isn’t much better.

Josh Bard is the starter for Triple-A Tacoma, but he lost a toenail three days ago and hasn’t played since, and reports are that while he’s not on the disabled list, he’s in serious pain. His backup is Jose Yepez, a 30-year-old career minor leaguer who hasn’t caught many of the Seattle pitchers.

Assistant general manager Jeff Kingston was still working on getting the roster straight as the last of the Mariner players were filing out Tuesday.

“I don’t know if I could go tomorrow,’’ Gimenez said about an hour after the conclusion of Tuesday’s game. “I could try, but the pain tonight was unlike anything I’d ever felt before.

“It actually happened in batting practice. When I felt it, I stopped and went right to the trainer’s room. They said they didn’t think it was too serious, but now they’re saying it’s some kind of oblique injury. I just don’t know how serious. The MRI will tell that, I guess.’’

As for Olivo, he was walking slowly and with a limp. And his upper left leg was encased in ice.

“What are you looking at me for?’’ Olivo said. “I’m fine.’’

That’s OK, as far as it goes, but history suggests Olivo would say the same thing if there was an alligator chomping on his leg.

The pain for Gimenez was so bad, that when he caught a laser throw from right fielder Ichiro Suzuki, Gimenez said stretching behind him to tag the Braves’ Jason Heyward was more painful than it would have been if he just collided with Heyward.

And in Gimenez’s final at-bat in the seventh inning with two on, he was under orders from manager Eric Wedge not to swing, because the pain was too great. Gimenez was told to try and bunt for a hit with two men on base, then once the count got to two strikes, he was to take pitches and hope the pitcher, in this case reliever Scott Proctor, just walked him.

Gimenez took strike three right down the middle.

“I wanted to hit, but Wedgie advised me not to,’’ Gimenez said. “There were some pitches right there that I could have hit (if healthy), but I couldn’t swing.’’

The Mariners got off to a good start when Ichiro hit the first pitch from Braves’ starter Tommy Hanson for his first home run of the season.

“It’s better than having zero,’’ Ichiro said drolly after the game.

That gave Seattle a 1-0 lead and it was up to 3-0 thanks to Jack Cust. Making his first start in a dozen games, Cust doubled home a run in the second and hit a solo homer in the fourth. That was good for a 3-0 lead, but Seattle left the bases loaded in the second and left men on second and third in the fourth, and the Braves would eventually make the Mariners pay for not scoring when they had the chance.

Michael Pineda gave up two runs in the first six innings, one of them unearned, but his command got away from him in the seventh and he walked the bases loaded with one out. Lefty Aaron Laffey took over and allowed a game-tying single to Jordan Schafer, then a two-run tie-breaking single to Brian McCann, who has seven hits in nine at-bats in the series.

What’s worse, McCann threw out Kennedy on the back end of a double steal in the bottom of the seventh. Ichiro made it from second to third without a problem, but McCann came up firing and threw a pellet to second base to catch Kennedy.

Thant meant when Dustin Ackley followed with a single, only one run scored instead of two.

“I was ready for Ichiro to go,’’ Kennedy said, saying it was his plan to follow the leadoff hitter and get into scoring position. “I got a good lead. He (McCann) made a good throw. That one’s on me.’’

Seattle got just one more base runner the rest of the night. Brendan Ryan singled and took second on a wild pitch against Braves’ closer Craig Kimbrel in the ninth, but Kimbrel came back to strike out Kennedy and get Justin Smoak to pop out.


YourThoughts

  • Tian Biao

    John, good article, as always. a quick question: when did the Ms stop
    showing replays? i went to the game too, sat in right field, everyone in
    our section looked at the center field screen to see replays of
    Heyward’s catch, and Ichiro’s assist, and a few other plays, but . . .
    Nothing. what’s up with that?

  • Tian Biao

    John, good article, as always. a quick question: when did the Ms stop
    showing replays? i went to the game too, sat in right field, everyone in
    our section looked at the center field screen to see replays of
    Heyward’s catch, and Ichiro’s assist, and a few other plays, but . . .
    Nothing. what’s up with that?

  • Jerry

    What about the error Smoak made?  That, along with Kennedy’s base running screw up, seemed real crucial to me.  And yet no mention of it here.

  • Jerry

    What about the error Smoak made?  That, along with Kennedy’s base running screw up, seemed real crucial to me.  And yet no mention of it here.