By Nate Hanson, Sports Radio KJR
Shortly before The Furness Show went on-air today, Larry Stone of The Seattle Times broke the news that the Mariners called up 2012 third overall pick Mike Zunino from AAA Tacoma. Ryan Divish of The Tacoma News Tribune called in to the show to give his thoughts on the roster move.
“We [The Mariners] have this guy here, maybe it works out maybe it doesn’t, but we have to try it because we don’t have any other options,” he said. “And that’s fair.”
The Mariners 2013 blueprint plan at the catcher position was torn up with the struggles, offensively and defensively, of Jesus Montero. In his second season Montero hit .208 with 9 RBI in 29 games. Kelly Shoppach took over the catching duties when Montero was recalled to Tacoma. Since then, Shoppach’s batting average has nosedived to .202. The combination of Shoppach and Jesus Sucre was expected to fill Montero’s void. Sucre hit .192 in eight games with the Mariners before suffering a hand injury that landed him on the 15-day disabled list. The Mariners’ corresponding move was the promotion of Brandon Bantz to the big-league club. Bantz hit only .178 in 14 games at AA Jackson. Mariners’ manager Eric Wedge showed his reluctance to play Bantz when Shoppach started a day following the 16 inning marathon against the White Sox. What other options did the Mariners have aside from forfeiting the position?
“I think they just figured ‘Why not give it a try?’” Divish said.
And why not? Many reporters and scouts, including Divish, believe Zunino is not ready to play at the big-league level. Divish said Zunino has not yet learned to drive breaking balls. But right now, the Mariners need a catcher. Although much of the focus is on Zunino’s bat, Divish points out that Zunino will have his hands full with the Mariners pitching staff.
“You can’t compare Zunino and Seager in certain regards because Zunino is going up to catch, which is like the hardest thing to do at the big league level,” he said.
Is now the right time? Nobody knows. Maybe Zunino will hit .300 and never see the minor leagues again. Maybe he will hit .200 and struggle defensively. If the latter occurs, how is a .200 batting average any different from what the Mariners are getting right now from the catcher position? If Zunino doesn’t live up to expectations, the Mariners can send him back to Tacoma in 10 days when Sucre comes off the disabled list with some irreplaceable big-league experience.
“I don’t think the organization is set back because they called up Mike Zunino a week early,” Divish said.
If he succeeds, the Mariners have their catcher for the next decade. Let’s play ball and see what Zunino has to offer.
You can listen to the whole interview here: