PEORIA, Ariz. — 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) and 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.”
Mariners walk off with win
PEORIA, Ariz. — Mike Ford’s ninth-inning double scored Gordon Beckham, giving the Mariners a walkoff 5-4 victory over the Texas Rangers on Thursday in a spring training game at Peoria Stadium.
Ford’s hit capped a two-run rally. Earlier in the inning, Kirk Nieuwenhuis hit a solo home run to tie the game at 4-4.
Seattle starting pitcher Marco Gonzales struck out five batters and walked one in five innings, allowing two runs.