No, there’s no Mariners curse.
“No,” Mariners catcher Mike Zunino said a couple days ago, just after he learned the stiffness in his side was a Grade 1 strain of his oblique. “It’s just one of those things.”
And of all the players Mariners’ manager Scott Servais said he didn’t want to lose to start the season, Zunino was No. 1 on his list of importance because of Zunino’s defensive abilities and how well he had been swinging the bat this spring.
But, OK. They still had their clean-up hitter, Nelson Cruz.
In a chapter out of the bizarre, Cruz then sprained his ankle on a step in the Mariners’ dugout just after finishing his home run trot. He was already hobbled by a quad injury.
Cruz went to the 10-day disabled list on Tuesday, making him the fifth player to head to the disabled list, and the Mariners were only five days into the season.
And it’s on the heels of them sending 16 different players to the disabled list in last year’s “M*A*S*H*”-like season. They used a club-record 61 different players (second-most in MLB history) and tied a major-league record with 40 different pitchers used in missing the playoffs for the 16th consecutive season.
“You can’t explain it,” Cruz said earlier this spring. “It’s just injuries. Every year is different. You can’t compare one year to the other.
“You just go out there and try to stay healthy. You can’t start thinking about injuries. If you can’t play they got to put somebody out there. You have to stay positive, no matter the situation.”
But … are the Mariners just cursed? Is there a greater conspiracy to all of this?
Servais was asked that on Tuesday.
“You’re unbelievable,” Servais told the reporter. “No, there’s nothing to read into that.
“We’ll make adjustments. That’s part of it. We’ve had to deal with some crazy things that have happened throughout the course of the year. We’ve had a lot happen here early.”
Almost every one of the Mariners’ regular position players had some sort of time out with injuries.
Felix Hernandez was hit by that rogue comebacker in the second inning of his first start. Ryon Healy had surgery on his wrist.
David Phelps had one pitch left in his relief appearance during the spring, and then he tore his ulnar collateral ligament, which required season-ending Tommy John surgery. Phelps’ $5.55 million contract ends after the season and he appeared in just 10 games with them last season because of injuries.
Some other injury fronts: Ichiro Suzuki (calf) wasn’t announced in the Mariners’ Opening Day lineup until the day before and then Zunino got the oblique strain on the final swing of that day-before batting practice at Safeco Field.
“Obviously when you come in from spring training to here, there’s a bit of a climate change,” Zunino said. “I mean, you never can really put your finger on it because it just happens randomly.”
Or so we’re led to believe …
But aside from Phelps these injuries haven’t been too disastrous, actually. Zunino is expected to be ready to rejoin the Mariners during their road trip this week. Cruz should be ready by the time they return home on April 13. Ben Gamel, who has recovered way quicker than expected from a strained oblique, will start the season in Tacoma and he could be ready shortly, too.
Erasmo Ramirez is on the disabled list with a strained lat muscle, but he threw a simulated game with the Rainiers on Tuesday, to Zunino. He, too, could be healthy by the end of the month.
That would just leave Hisashi Iwakuma left on the disabled list after his offseason shoulder surgery. He’s on a minor-league contract, but the Mariners think he’s their “secret weapon” this year.
So Servais stressed — the sky is still in the air.
“The sky is not falling,” he said. “(Cruz) twisted his ankle and we’re lucky it’s not going to be more serious than that. And he’ll be back and playing a big role for us.”