Mike Zunino’s stats from the first two and a half weeks of the season may seem like a cause for concern, but Mariners manager Scott Servais said the 26-year-old catcher’s approach at the plate has been anything but.
“I don’t think the at-bats have been godawful, by any means,” Servais said before Wednesday’s series finale against the Marlins at 12:40 on 710 ESPN Seattle. “I don’t think the results have been great, (but he’s been) working himself into some decent counts, he’s gotten some fastballs to hit, and he hasn’t hit them. That happens over stretches. Certainly would like to see him pick it up because when he starts adding punch to the bottom of our lineup, now it’s a really, really good lineup. And he’s got that ability, there’s no doubt.”
Zunino is hitting .189 with a .211 on-base percentage and no home runs in his first 12 games, but Servais said his plate appearances haven’t had too much in common with a period of prolonged struggles late last year when he hit .188 over the final month.
“This is different. He’s in a different spot. He’s seeing the ball better, the timing’s better,” Servais said. “It’s hard to hit a baseball and you are going to swing at some bad pitches every once in a while. It happens. Guys on the other team, they get paid, too. I like his at-bats, I like the process. The results? I’m sure he would like to have a few more hits. … He’ll get there. I do feel good about him and the progress he’s made. I’m not seeing the same type of at-bat we saw there at the end of September last year.”
While Zunino is still looking to leave the yard for the first time this season, it’s not as if he’s lost his prodigious power. As Servais alluded to, he’s hit some impressive pop ups, even one that nearly hit the closed Safeco Field roof in Monday’s game.
“He has … hit some of the most towering pop ups I think I’ve seen in quite some time. It’s really hard to do that,” Servais quipped. “I appreciate the skill it takes to hit the ball that far, that straight up. I do think his swing, it’s not like he’s feeling for the ball. It’s aggressive, it’s an attacking swing, he’s just underneath some balls. Like to turn some of those into line drives; he would as well.”
• Jean Segura will go on a rehab assignment with one of the Mariners’ minor league affiliates later this week before coming off the 10-day disabled list for a mild hamstring strain. Servais said the plan is for Segura to get at least two starts in the minors, then rejoin the Mariners either in the final game of their upcoming series in Oakland on Sunday or the first game of their set in Detroit, which begins next Tuesday after an off day Monday.
• Who’s been the biggest surprise for Servais so far? He told “Brock and Salk” in an interview from Safeco on Wednesday morning that it’s the guy at the front of the Mariners’ rotation: Felix Hernandez. “I think the guy pitching for us tonight is off to a really good start. Felix, I really like where he’s at and how he’s going about controlling the strike zone from his perspective and how he’s doing it a little bit differently in his pitch sequences.”