“He came in in great shape and there’s some things we wanted to see him do this spring and he’s starting to do them,” McClendon said Tuesday. “Taking charge of the staff, running that staff, getting them to do the things he needs them to do to be successful during the course of a game. Sometimes you have to pull the whip out. He’s done all those things. I think it’s taken him the whole six weeks to get all of that out of the staff. That’s why he’s played as much as he’s played.”
Zunino, who hit .199 with 22 home runs last season, is batting .354 (17 for 48) with five doubles, seven home runs, 10 runs and 13 RBI in 18 spring games.
“I don’t think he was ready to do it last year. He was trying to get his feet wet his first full year in the big leagues as well,” McClendon said. “I think he’s learned this staff. He knows he can be successful in this league and the maturation process has brought him to this point in his career.
“He’s been on the fast track from the start and he hasn’t disappointed. It’s mind blowing, if you really think about it, to think how far he’s come so fast.”
A year ago,
Part of the problem was Zunino's inability to put the ball in play with two strikes. This spring, Zunino has done a better job of being patient with two strikes against him. On Monday, Zunino hit a home run and a two-run double in Seattle's 5-3 win over the Angles.
The double came with Zunino down 1-2 in the count, before working it up to 3-2.
"That's what he's been working on all spring, the ability to put the ball in play with two strikes," Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said, via MLB.com. "The knowledge and understanding to know what they're trying to do to you in those situations. He's continues to grow in that. He's gotten better this spring with it."
"I was just looking for pitches early in the count to drive," said Zunino to MLB.com. "I'm feeling all right. Just continuing to try to make adjustments and seeing a little bit of improvement. It's something to keep building on."
Although the Mariners lost to the Cubs 12-10 on Saturday, Zunino went 1 for 3 with a double, a walk and two runs scored. His most recent performance follows up Friday's outing where he hit two homeruns.
Th 23-year-old batted .199 in 2014. The catcher is working to bring up his average by keeping his bat in the zone longer.
"That's the goal and then the pitch is going to dictate where you hit it," he said. "If my path and direction can stay to the pitcher and focus up the middle and I just trust my hands to hit where the ball is pitched, I think that's going to be the key."
"The one thing we've tried to stress with him is when you stretch the field from foul line to foul line, you become a better and more dangerous hitter," said Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon. "And he's working on it. It's a work in progress, but he's getting better."
After appearing in a career-high 131 games in 2014, including 130 appearances at catcher,
“I think if we can get him into the 145 range -- 140 to 145 -- then he should be good to go for the entire season,” McClendon said. “We probably overplayed him a little too much early on last season, but it was out of necessity. We had a very tough staff to catch.”
However, McClendon's goals might be a little ambitious. Only 10 times in the last 15 years have a catcher started at least 140 games -- and seven times it was Jason Kendall.
The three others players reached that plateau are Salvador Perez (2014, Royals), Russell Martin (2007, Dodgers) and Brad Ausmus (2000, Tigers). Although, Kendall accomplished the feat twice (2003, 2004) when McClendon was the manager of the Pirates.
|CBSSports.com Player Ranking|
|9/28/2014 vs L.A. Angels|
|vs L.A. Angels||54||12||2||.250||.407||.222|
|vs Rasmus (Career)||3||0||0||0||0||0|
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