By Nate Hanson, Sports Radio KJR
It’s only been one game, but Mike Zunino showed promise in the Mariners’ disappointing 6-1 loss last night to Houston. He went 1 for 4 with the bat and threw a runner out at second from behind the plate. Mariners Hall of Fame catcher Dan Wilson made it clear to The Furness Show that if Zunino stays with the big league club; he needs to play every day.
“If Mike Zunino is going to stay, he’s probably going to play pretty consistently,” he said.
Reporters and scouts questioned Zunino’s readiness when he was called up two days ago. From a physical standpoint, Wilson said Zunino is prepared.
“He comes into the position, physically especially, where there’s not a lot of learning that needs to be done,” Wilson said. “His experience curb is going to be a little shorter than most, and I think is what Mariners fans are so excited about.”
The biggest challenge in Zunino’s experience curb may be learning how to handle a Major League pitching staff and call a game.
“It also demands a lot mentally and maybe that’s the most important part of the job,” he said. “It takes some knowhow and some experience.”
Although it was his bat that got much of the attention in the minors, Wilson praised Zunino’s footwork, hands and presence behind the plate – compliments Mariners fans have not heard about a catcher since Wilson himself.
“When you look at hands and feet, and he has pretty good makeup in those two areas, especially behind the plate, you know you got a pretty good player,” he said.
With Jesus Sucre’s return from the disabled list imminent, it’s still unclear how long Zunino will stay with the Mariners. Even if Zunino stays, it’s still unknown how he and Shoppach will split time behind the dish.
“He’s a guy that does need to play,” Wilson said. “Learning how to play every day, learning how to play through injuries, learning how to play through nicks and bruises, and learning the position and everything it encompasses just takes some time.”
One of the concerns reporters and scouts have with Zunino is his ability to hit the breaking ball. Yesterday, he drilled a line drive up the middle on a 0-2 slider. It’s only been one game and it is a diminutive sample size. But, if Zunino continues to adjust with the bat, and proves Wilson’s acclaim, there is no reason he should not be here to stay. Perhaps he will be the best catcher the Mariners have had since Wilson. Perhaps even better.
“He’s 22 years old, but he’s playing a lot older than that,” Wilson said. “I can’t wait to see how he continues to develop.”