By Shannon Drayer
Mike Zunino is at Safeco Field and in uniform, wearing number 3. Ready or not, here he is. Ready or not, regardless of the collective online, on-air, and on-text hand wringing over the move, Mike Zunino is going to be just fine.
This was not a move of desperation. Okay, maybe in one sense it was. The Mariners’ plans A, B and C at catcher have failed, tired or been knocked out by injury. They clearly needed a catcher. Perhaps they could have looked outside the organization, but why not give Zunino a look? We most likely were going to see him before September anyway.
Zunino will be given the opportunity to sink or swim. They like his defense, love his makeup and composure and believe his bat will come along, according to manager Eric Wedge.
“With him, the priority first and foremost is behind the plate, handling the staff, leadership, the presence that he has,” Wedge said before the game. “The bat will take care of itself in time.”
We will see if the bat takes care of itself at the major-league level. If it does, that will be a heck of an accomplishment, learning at this level. If it doesn’t, he will be sent down like the majority of young players. This is hardly going to destroy him.
Zunino grew up in this game. His maturity and composure have impressed at every level. He dealt with a measure of failure this year and appears to be no worse for wear. If he can’t get the bat going up here he will have at least seen what he is up against and have a new knowledge and focus at Triple-A. I don’t see how this experience could possibly make him worse.
In the video in the last post I talked about Kyle Seager’s first callup. It obviously is not the same situation as Seager tore up Triple-A in the 24 games he played there. He got the call to Seattle and in seven games hit .136/.240/.136/.376 and then was sent down. Beyond the numbers, Seager was a fish out of water in the bigs. To this day he is still the rookiest rookie I have ever seen. I am not even convinced that was really him because the guy who came back 12 days later was completely different.
As good as Seager is, and for all of the baseball instincts and smarts he has, I am convinced he has learned a lot at the big-league level and the first exposure he had helped. If Zunino fails in his first attempt I wouldn’t be surprised if he follows suit. If he can’t handle the breaking pitches it may take more time but any time he has up here no doubt for him will be learning time.
Wedge is a big believer in learning at this level. Failing is part of that.
“He’s going to be a pretty good hitter,” Wedge said. “How good? I don’t know but what he is going to be is a very good, complete ballplayer, all-around ballplayer and that we feel pretty confident about that. For him to get up here and get into that learning curve, it’s only going to help us around the corner. We feel like he’s able to handle that now.”
We shall see.