SEATTLE -- An injury Mariners catcher Kenji Johjima thought happened only to fast runners put him on the 15-day disabled list on Thursday, the first time he has been on the DL during his three-plus seasons with Seattle. Johjima has a slightly strained right hamstring, and rather than risking further damage early in the season, the organization decided to allow plenty of time for the injury to heal. In a corresponding move, the Mariners promoted Jamie Burke from Triple-A Tacoma. He will back up Rob Johnson, who takes over the bulk of the catching chores for the next two weeks.
The Mariners also promoted right-handed reliever Sean White from Tacoma to help in the bullpen while left-handed starter Ryan Rowland-Smith is on the 15-day DL with triceps tendinitis. Third baseman Matt Tuiasosopo, the only player on the 25-man Opening Day roster not to play in any of the first nine games, was sent to Tacoma. Johjima said he felt "a pinch" in an area above his right knee while backing up a play at first base in the third inning of Wednesday night's game against the Angels. He stayed in the game, but the discomfort became worse the following inning when he ran to first base after hitting a run-scoring single to center field. He remained in the game and advanced to third base on Yuniesky Betancourt's ensuing double. But he was in obvious pain and was replaced by Johnson. "I have never felt anything like that in my career," Johjima said through his interpreter. "I have been told a lot of the fast runners get this type of injury. I have never been a fast runner, so I don't why I am getting this." The Mariners expected worse than a Grade 1 strain, which is the least serious. "It's better than we thought," manager Don Wakamatsu said. "It looks like it's going to be two to three weeks, but it's not as major as we thought it was going to be." Johjima was off to a decent start, going 6-for-24 with four RBIs during the first two weeks of the season. "It's very disappointing to leave the team, especially when things are going so good, getting two hits yesterday, and having Ichiro back with the team," he said. Ichiro Suzuki came off the 15-day disabled list prior to Wednesday night's game. "We have to alternate the DL," Johjima said, jokingly. "If we went on the DL at the same time, we would lose all the Japan media." There are about 20 Japan-based writers covering Ichiro and Johjima again this season, although the number will be less when Ichiro gets one more hit -- the one that would make him the all-time hits leader for a Japanese player. He went into Thursday night's game tied with Isao Harimoto with 3,085 career hits. All of Harimoto's hits came in Japan during a 23-year career. Meanwhile, Burke gives the Mariners a seasoned veteran behind the plate. "I've known Jamie from three different organizations and I trust his ability to call a game and his relationship with the pitching staff," Wakamatsu said. "He's a good fit to bring up. He was in competition all spring to make the club and it's nice to bring up somebody who I know personally and trust." Burke, 37, attended camp as a non-roster player and was one of the final cuts. "I never thought about not going to Minors," he said. "I still want to play this game and know I can play at this level. So if I have to go down one level to get back to this level, I'm will to do that."
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.