BALTIMORE -- Humberto Quintero has been on a crash course learning the Mariners pitching staff, but the 11-year Major League catcher says all is going well as he adapts to his new team.
Quintero, 33, was signed a week ago after rookie Mike Zunino went on the disabled list with a broken bone in his hand. With 41-year-old Henry Blanco the only other catcher on the Major League roster, Quintero will be called on to play frequently until Zunino's expected return in September.
"The first couple days were hard," said Quintero. "But Blanco helped me with the pitchers. He told me what the best pitches they've got, and I caught a couple bullpens and I'm good. Henry helped me a lot and I appreciate that."
Quintero caught two games in his first week and was in the lineup again for Friday's series opener against the Orioles. After being released by the Phillies a few days earlier, he landed in a good spot to get immediate playing time.
"I feel bad for Zunino getting hurt," Quintero said. "But I'm glad I'm here. I've made a couple friends here and Blanco made me feel comfortable. I like it here. I like it a lot."
Mariners return to closer-by-committee system
BALTIMORE -- After Tom Wilhelmsen couldn't retire four straight batters Thursday and ignited a ninth-inning Red Sox rally in Seattle's 8-7 loss, acting manager Robby Thompson said Friday the team would go back to a closer-by-committee approach for now.
Wilhelmsen was moved out of the closer role for several weeks at the end of June after running into some midseason troubles, but he had regained the job and recorded eight straight saves until Thursday's meltdown.
Wilhelmsen didn't actually blow a save in the Red Sox game, since he entered in a non-save situation with a 7-2 lead. Boston wound up scoring six runs, while three Seattle relievers managed to get just one out after Wilhelmsen walked two batters and gave up a pair of hits to start the inning.
With manager Eric Wedge still on leave as he recovers from a mild stroke, Thompson and pitching coach Carl Willis discussed the situation and decided a change is in order again.
"As of right now, maybe like in the past, we'll piece it together and match up and go from there," Thompson said prior to Friday's series opener with the Orioles. "Those games like that and even closer games where we've got the lead, we've got to find a way to win the ballgame."
Thompson mentioned Oliver Perez, Charlie Furbush, Yoervis Medina and Danny Farquhar as candidates to be used in closing scenarios.
"We'll let the game and hitters coming up dictate who we're going to go with in that situation," he said.
As for Wilhelmsen, who saw his ERA climb to 4.37 after allowing four runs without an out?
"For me watching him, he's pitching with a little lack of confidence," Thompson said. "He's not pounding the strike zone with fastballs like he did in the past to get to his breaking ball and that changeup. At any part of the game, first inning or whatever, if you walk the leadoff hitter, the percentage is high that that guy is going to score.
"You're talking about the ninth inning, trying to get those last three outs, you can't give any free passes. That's like giving a team four or five outs in an inning. You just can't get away with that. Tommy is a strong guy and strong minded. I think he'll be OK, but I think he needs to refocus and get his confidence back in that fastball."
Blanco makes grand return in twilight years
BALTIMORE -- Henry Blanco hit one grand slam in his first 15 years in the Majors, that coming in 2000 when he was a youngster with the Brewers. But now the 41-year-old has cranked out two in 16 games with the Mariners, becoming the second-oldest catcher in Major League history to hit a slam.
Carlton Fisk is the only older catcher to hit a grand slam, having done so at age 43 in 1991 for the White Sox.
Blanco cleared the bases for the second time since signing with Seattle in mid-June with his fifth-inning shot in Thursday's 8-7 loss at Boston. At the time, the blow gave Seattle a 7-1 lead and put Felix Hernandez in position to notch his 12th win of the season, until the bullpen wilted in the ninth as the Red Sox stormed from behind.
Blanco was as hard pressed to explain the oddity of hitting two slams in short order for Seattle as he was figuring out the last-inning loss.
"Sometimes, things are hard to explain," said Blanco. "But I wasn't thinking about [hitting a home run]. I was just looking for a pitch where I could drive in one run or two. It ended up being a grand slam. But the main thing is we ended up losing the game, so for me, it didn't count."
As for the heart-wrenching loss?
"Unbelievable," Blanco said. "But this game is like this. You never know what's going to happen and unfortunately we couldn't finish. I thought the umpire missed one pitch on Jonny Gomes and unfortunately it ended up costing us the game. But in the meantime, we should have ended it before."
Blanco went out to the mound several times to talk to closer Tom Wilhelmsen, who had trouble with his command, as he walked two batters and gave up a single and double before being replaced.
"I was just trying to slow him down," Blanco said. "We had a 7-2 lead and I was telling him to just throw the ball right down the middle so they could hit it. That's going to happen sometimes. We just have to try to eliminate that and move forward and try to get it done today."
• Thursday's 8-7 loss to the Red Sox was the Mariners' eighth walk-off loss of the year, tying them with the White Sox for the most in the American League. The Marlins lead the Majors with 10 and the Mets have had nine.
• When Felix Hernandez threw seven innings of one-run ball Thursday, it was his 97th career start in which he's allowed one or fewer runs. Since he arrived in the Majors in 2005, that is the most starts of any pitcher with one or fewer runs, and he's 64-4 with 29 no-decisions in those starts.