When they claimed catcher Jacob Nottingham off waivers from the Brewers a few days ago, the Mariners knew they would have to make a roster move at some point this weekend. With Nottingham out of minor-league options, they had to put him on the 26-man active roster.
It led to some initial speculation about who might be the roster casualty.
Would they send down catcher Luis Torrens, who has struggled at the plate and behind it this season, though he did have a big game Wednesday in Houston? Or would they designate catcher Tom Murphy, who is out of minor-league options, for assignment? Murphy has been worse at the plate than Torrens, but he is much better defensively and has the trust of the pitching staff.
By the end of July, it could be catching prospect Cal Raleigh, who will start his minor-league season next week in Tacoma, as the everyday catcher.
The Mariners instead made an unexpected roster move, placing Evan White on the bereavement list to make room for Nottingham.
Lookout Landing, a Mariners site, posted that White’s grandfather had passed away.
“When he comes back, he has to clear intake,” manager Scott Servais said. “It’s a little bit longer than maybe what it would normally be on the bereavement list. But I think it’s important that when things like that happen, you need to step away from the ballclub. There are things bigger than a baseball game. We’ll have Ty France over at first base filling in there, and you’ll see Marmo (Jose Marmolejos) some at first here over the next few days as we work through filling that hole.”
White has a .155/.221/.225 slash line with two doubles, a homer, six runs batted in, five walks and 21 strikeouts in 77 plate appearances this season. While White has reduced his strikeout percentage from 41.6% to 27.3% this season, he’s still struggled to find hits consistently. There is some thought that he could be optioned to Class AAA Tacoma with the Rainiers starting their season May 6 at Cheney Stadium.
The Mariners could carry the three catchers since Nottingham has played some first base and then use France and Marmolejos primarily at first base. Neither is as skilled defensively as White. But it is France’s best position.
“I definitely think it’s where he’s most comfortable,” Servais said. “He’s played the most there, throughout his minor-league career and a little bit here or there in the big leagues when he was with San Diego. So he’s worked out at first a ton, but he hasn’t played there in a lot of games, but I definitely think it’s his most comfortable spot on the diamond. He looks very capable of making all the throws and making all the plays from first base.”
Nottingham, 26, was designated for assignment by the Brewers on April 22. He had yet to play in a game this season. In parts of three seasons (2018-2020), he’s played in 38 major-league games, posting a .203/.306/.432 slash line with two doubles, five home runs, 17 RBI, nine walks and 30 strikeouts.
Servais wasn’t certain how things will change if they want to recall a player from Tacoma to join the big-league club and if that player would be subjected to the full intake process, which can take up to three days.
“I don’t know everything yet on that,” he said. “I think a lot of it does help if they are fully vaccinated. And we do have a lot of guys that are headed down that path. I think the majority of our projected Triple-A team will be vaccinated. So that certainly helps bringing them in, but I don’t have all the particulars on that.”