Blanco makes Mariners debut behind the plate

Blanco makes Mariners debut behind the plate

Blanco makes Mariners debut behind the plate

OAKLAND -- Newly acquired catcher Henry Blanco made his first start for the Mariners in grand fashion Saturday against the A's, belting a grand slam in the sixth inning that accounted for all of Seattle's runs in its 4-0 series-clinching win.

Blanco briefly caught for Felix Hernandez as a member of the Venezuelan team in the World Baseball Classic, but it appeared as if they had played together for years. Hernandez finished the night with seven innings of shutout ball for his fourth scoreless outing of the season, striking out eight and walking just one.

Blanco got the nod in part because Seattle's rookie catcher, Mike Zunino, only had experience with Hernandez from Spring Training. The Mariners swapped catchers Friday when they signed Blanco and designating Kelly Shoppach for assignment.

He also took part in a key defensive play by tagging out Jed Lowrie at the plate in the fifth to save a run and handled reliever Yoervis Medina masterfully when the right-hander pitched himself into a jam. Blanco displayed the type of leadership manager Eric Wedge raved about upon his signing.

The 41-year-old, in his 16th Major League season, appeared in 15 games for the Blue Jays this year before being released on Monday. A career .226 hitter, including .184 (7-for-38) in 2013, Blanco is known as a defensive specialist, with a 40.7 percent caught-stealing rate.

Wedge said Zunino will return to the lineup Sunday.

Jeff Kirshman is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.