Phelps out for year with torn UCL; Zunino 3 HRs

Seattle Mariners of Anaheim v Kansas City Royals

PEORIA, Ariz. -- The Seattle Mariners have lost key late inning reliever David Phelps to a torn Ulnar Collateral Ligament in his right elbow.

General Manager Jerry Dipoto announced the news that Phelps' 2018 season is over and that Tommy John surgery is required to address the injury in the coming weeks. Phelps was injured in a split-squad game against the Los Angeles Angels last Saturday.

“I feel terrible for David Phelps,” Dipoto said. “He really prepared and came into this spring, coming off the bone chip and looked great. Physically, the stuff was right where it needed to be. We were waiting for the precision. Oddly the last outing, the precision joined the stuff and that’s when he wound up hurting himself.”

Phelps made five total appearances for the Mariners this spring, posting a 2-1 record with a 9.00 ERA in four innings of work with eight hits, five runs (four earned), five strikeouts, one walk and two home runs allowed. Phelps was injured on his final pitch of his last outing against the Angels.

“He was a big part of what we wanted to do,” Dipoto said. “It’s a big blow. There’s no way to sugarcoat it. He was a big piece of what we were doing and it’s a big loss for us. The good thing we do feel like we have some depth there to work back from, but it won’t be an easy spot to fill. There’s a reason why we went and got him. There’s a reason why we were excited for his return. He’ll be missed.”

With Nick Rumbelow sidelined due to a nerve issue in his neck and Tony Zych released earlier this spring with arm issues of his own, the Mariners bullpen is suddenly a lot thinner than it initially appeared. Phelps was set to be a key setup man ahead of closer Edwin Diaz alongside Juan Nicasio. Now the Mariners will have to find alternatives.

"He was projected to be a big part of it," manager Scott Servais said. "Disappointing news, feel bad for him. We'll have to have other guys step up and we do have capable guys."

Servais mentioned Dan Altavilla as a key replacement. Altavilla has pitched 8 2/3 innings in eight appearances this spring with two runs allowed on three hits with two walks and 12 strikeouts. He's posted a 1-1 record with a 2.08 ERA this spring. Nick Vincent may also be called upon to pitch in the late innings again, though the team wanted to lessen his workload in high-leverage situations this season.

Mike Zunino goes 4-for-4 with three home runs against Brewers:

Catcher Mike Zunino had a tremendous night against the Milwaukee Brewers on Wednesday.

Zunino crushed home runs in each of his first three at-bats and laced a single to right-center field in his final trip to the plate to the night. He finished the night 4-for-4 from the plate with five runs batted in.

"He's in a good spot right now," Servais said. "Outstanding at-bats and done a great job behind the plate. He's ready to go. He's ready for Opening Day."

Zunino hit a two-run home run onto the grass berm behind the left field wall to give the Mariners a 2-0 lead in the second inning off Brewers pitcher Bruce Suter. Zunino got Suter again in the fourth inning with an opposite field shot over the wall in deep right-center field to give Seattle a 4-2 cushion.

A third homer came off former teammate Yovani Gallardo, this one a solo shot back onto the left field berm.

For Zunino, the single off Nick Ramirez in the eighth inning was his favorite at-bat of the night.

"Me using right-center is the biggest thing I'm trying to do," he said. "Driving balls out there with that single... if I had to pick an at-bat that I want to sort of bottle up, it's that one. Just to be able to get to 3-2 (count), put a good swing on the ball and hit a ball on a line that way means things are in the right place."

Zunino caught the whole game from Mike Leake, James Pazos, Ryan Cook and Nick Vincent and threw out a potential base stealer as well.

Photo Credit: KANSAS CITY, MO - AUGUST 4: David Phelps #46 of the Seattle Mariners throws in the seventh inning against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on August 4, 2017 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)

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