Prior to this afternoon’s game against the Rays, the Mariners selected reliever Penn Murfee onto the major league roster. Catcher Cal Raleigh was optioned to Triple-A Tacoma, while first baseman Evan White was transferred from the 10-day to the 60-day injured list in corresponding moves.
Murfee was selected as a COVID substitute last week when Paul Sewald went on the injured list. He stayed on the active roster for seven days but was returned to Tacoma yesterday without making an appearance. Because he’d been designated as a substitute, Murfee could be taken off the 40-man roster without being designated for assignment.
That won’t be the case this time around, as Seattle brought him back to the big league club quickly. He figures to get an opportunity to make his MLB debut this time around, although the M’s are still free to option him back to Tacoma if they’d like. Taking him off the 40-man roster again would require exposing him to waivers, though. Seattle likely wouldn’t have selected Murfee back up if they had plans on doing that, so it seems he’ll hold his 40-man spot for longer than his previous stint.
Murfee, 28 next month, has made five appearances out of the Rainier bullpen thus far in 2022. The Santa Clara product hasn’t allowed a run in eight innings, and he’s surrendered just four baserunners (two hits, a walk and a hit batter) while striking out ten. The righty punched out an impressive 28.2% of batters faced in 78 2/3 innings between Double-A Arkansas and Tacoma last season, although that came with an elevated 10.2% walk rate.
Raleigh has been part of a three-person catching group in Seattle thus far. His eight starts behind the dish lead the team, but he’d been more or less alternating games with Tom Murphy in the early going. Raleigh had reached base in just six of his first 28 plate appearances. Murphy, on the other hand, is off to a blistering 10-24 start with six walks and eight strikeouts.
Neither Murphy nor Luis Torrens, who returned from a stint on the COVID list this week, can be optioned to the minor leagues. Particularly with active rosters set to shrink from 28 to 26 next Monday, carrying three catchers could’ve been challenging over the long haul. Rather than expose either of Torrens or Murphy to waivers, it seems the M’s will turn to that duo behind the dish while getting Raleigh some more work in the minors.
The switch-hitting Raleigh has been one of Seattle’s more highly-regarded prospects in recent years. He’s yet to produce in 176 MLB plate appearances, hitting .166/.222/.294 with a sky-high 34.7% strikeout rate. The 25-year-old had a much more impressive .324/.377/.608 mark while fanning in just 12.6% of his 199 trips to the plate in Triple-A last season, though. Between his high minors performance and a general belief among prospect evaluators he’s an adequate defensive catcher, Raleigh figures to get another opportunity before too long. For now, however, his slow start and three remaining option years make him the odd man out.
White underwent sports hernia surgery during the final week in March. The team didn’t provide a timetable on his return, and he’ll now be out of action until at least the first week of June. It’s yet another setback for White, who missed most of the 2021 campaign after undergoing left hip surgery. Even when he returns to health, he figures to be optioned to Tacoma, as he’s been surpassed by the hot-hitting Ty France on the depth chart at first base.