The Mariners Friday signed veteran free agent catcher Henry Blanco, 41, making room for him on the roster by designating Kelly Shoppach, who had been the starter, for assignment. Blanco, a 16-year veteran who most recently played with Toronto, will be available for Friday night’s game in Oakland against the Athletics.
Blanco played for the Los Angeles Dodgers (1997), Colorado (1999), Milwaukee (2000-01), Atlanta (2002-03), Minnesota (2004), the Chicago Cubs (2005-08), San Diego (2009), the New York Mets (2010), Arizona (2011-12) and Toronto (2013).
He has a reputation as a strong defensive catcher, including nabbing more than 40 percent of baserunners attempting to steal against him in his career.
Blanco signed as a free agent with Toronto Jan. 11, 2013 and was released June 10. He appeared in 15 games with the Blue Jays, catching in 13, including 11 consecutive starts by knuckleballer R.A. Dickey.
In those 15 games, Blanco hit .184 (7-for-38), 12 points lower than Shoppach. In 936 career games, Blanco is a .226 hitter with an on-base percentage of .291.
“We had interest in Henry this off-season,” GM Jack Zduriencik said. “And recent circumstances developed allowing us to acquire Henry. We are pleased to be able to add him to our 25-man roster and look forward to his contributions.”
Shoppach, who became Seattle’s No. 1 catcher when Jesus Montero struggled and was shipped out to AAA Tacoma, hit .196 in 35 games. He had three home runs and nine RBIs. The Mariners have 10 days to trade, release or outright Shoppach’s contract.
On June 5, Shoppach caught all 16 innings in a 7-5 loss to the Chicago White Sox. He came back a day later and caught nine innings against the Yankees, and caught nine more innings against New York June 7 before getting a day off.
The Mariners have been running through catchers at a dizzying rate since sending Montero out. They brought up Jesus Sucre, now injured, from the AAA Rainiers, brought up and then designated Brandon Brantz for assignment (he played one game) and promoted No. 1 pick Mike Zunino, who made his MLB debut Wednesday.