While the strain in his side seemed innocuous enough, the all-too-common early warning sign of an oblique strain was confirmed this afternoon as Mike Zunino will hit the 10-day DL, retroactive to 3/27.
Zunino has been placed on the DL. David Freitas called up.— Shannon Drayer (@shannondrayer) March 31, 2018
That last part of the news is key. Zunino being hampered in any capacity is no good, but if there was truly the chance that he could be ready sooner, and the team instead is being heavily cautious, Zunino’s timetable would put him ready to return on 4/5, following the Mariners’ series against the San Francisco Giants. That rosiest timeline would see Zunino miss just four games - the final two of the series against Cleveland, and the two game series against SF. Likelier, Zunino is given at least a few extra days and returns in the midst of the Twins series subsequent, for a total of five or six games missed.
There is unfortunately always the chance that oblique injuries can linger, and Mitch Haniger’s frustrating saga last year undoubtedly has everyone gunshy. The MLB’s own reference page describes the varying degrees of seriousness for the injury:
In 2017, Mariners outfielder Mitch Haniger went on the disabled list with a Grade 2 right oblique strain April 26 and wasn’t activated until June 11. That same year, Orioles first baseman Chris Davis missed a month with a Grade 1 right oblique strain. However, Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera missed only three games after sustaining a Grade 1 left oblique strain in May 2017.
What this means in the short-term is an extended look for Mike Marjama and a likely Mariners debut for David Freitas. While Marjama’s charisma has deservedly earned him a greater presence in the collective consciousness of the fanbase, on a statsheet the difference between him and Freitas is not dramatic. Freitas has been a catcher for far longer and brought with him a strong defensive reputation, but without AAA framing numbers that reputation is most of what we have to go on. Freitas broke into the majors for the first time last year with the braves after bouncing between AA and AAA since 2013, and seems to excel in one category - not being Tuffy Gosewisch.
Get well soon, Zu. You’re needed badly.
UPDATE 10:17 AM 3/31/18:
Just a grade 1 strain for Zunino, good chance he could be back when eligible, weather permitting. @Mariners— Shannon Drayer (@shannondrayer) March 31, 2018