Sucre ready for action; hip 'not going to be a big deal'

Sucre ready for action; hip 'not going to be a big deal'

PEORIA, Ariz. -- After sitting out two games with a sore hip, Jesus Sucre was ready for duty on Wednesday night, and the Mariners' backup catcher said it's time to begin pointing toward the start of the regular season.

"I feel a lot better," Sucre said prior to suiting up for bench duties against the Cubs. "I practiced yesterday and I think I'm ready to go. I still feel it a little bit, but it's OK."

Sucre was taken out of Sunday's game against the Rangers after feeling soreness while running to first on a single, and said then that the hip had been bothering him for several days. But as Mike Zunino's primary backup, he knows this isn't the time to be sitting out.

"It's getting close. We have to get ready for the season," said the 26-year-old Venezuelan. "The whole team is ready to go."

Sucre is regarded as an excellent defensive catcher, which is manager Lloyd McClendon's first priority for his No. 2 backstop, but has hit just .207 in 29 games with Seattle over the past two years. He's been getting most of the work ahead of veteran non-roster invitee John Baker this spring, however, and appears to have the inside track on the backup job.

"I've had a lot of chance to play and it feels great," Sucre said. "I've had a lot of at-bats, a lot of time behind the plate. My body feels good except for my hip, and that's not going to be a big deal."

As for the hitting? His batting average sat at just .100 (2-for-20) in 10 Cactus League games entering Wednesday's action, and he's spending extra time with hitting coach Howard Johnson on some things to help.

"I was talking to him yesterday about my swing," Sucre said. "He said we need to work on something different with my stance, and I took BP with the team and it felt a lot better. So I've got to stay there and keep going."

McClendon values Sucre's defensive abilities, but wants the youngster to contribute offensively where he can.

"You just don't want to be an automatic out," McClendon said. "He's working hard at it. Everybody isn't gifted in every area of the game. Hitting is his shortcoming, but he's trying to do some things with Hojo and [coach Andy Van Slyke] to get better.

"He's got to be productive even with his outs. He has to be smart about how he goes about his business. One of the things you have to understand is your limitations as a hitter, and not try to do things you're not capable of doing."

And things Sucre is very capable of doing are shutting down opposing running games with his strong arm, blocking pitches in the dirt and working with Seattle's outstanding pitching staff.

"Everybody knows that's my job," he said. "My defense, my arm, throwing runners out, calling good games. We've been working hard at that, because defense is something the team needs."

Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.