Mariners notebook: With the bat on track, Scott Servais is asking for more from Mike Zunino behind the plate
It wasn’t the two home runs Mike Zunino hit Monday night against the Tigers that stood out to Scott Servais. Surprisingly, it was what Zunino did behind the plate. Both the manager and the former catcher in him appreciated what he saw from Zunino in handling young pitching in tough situations.
“Last night during the sixth inning, that was the highlight of the game for me,” Servais said Tuesday. “How he handled (James) Pazos in the sixth inning. The pitch selection, getting him to execute, got ahead in the count and then went to the mound and had a visit with the bases loaded still. Comes back, and the pitcher executes the pitch and gets the strikeout. Really important to do that.”
Zunino has been good behind the plate, but with his swing fixed and his confidence growing, Servais wants to see him take the next step and is asking for more.
“I’ve talked to him quite a bit in the last week or 10 days about stepping up, kind of into a leadership role of running our pitching staff,” Servais said. “I think that’s what all of the winning teams have, is the guy behind the plate has to be able to manage the plate along with me, the manager.”
This goes beyond leading the pitcher through trouble. At times, Servais would like to see Zunino show a little more enthusiasm behind the plate and when the situation calls for it, be more forceful with his pitchers.
“Sometimes guys make mistakes and get away with it, or they foul it off,” he pointed out. “Just to remind him, we’re better than that and you’re better than that. These pitches have got to get down, you’ve got to bounce it. Those type of things keeps the pitchers engaged and I think they are looking for somebody back there to lead them. It’s important he continues to take those steps forward with that, and that’s my job is to help him along.”
Iwakuma not yet ready
Hisashi Iwakuma will not be making a start against the Astros this weekend as originally hoped. He struggled in his rehab outing with Triple-A Tacoma Monday night, surrendering four runs in two innings. The reports were not good.
“It just wasn’t sharp, the ball wasn’t really coming out,” Servais said. “Didn’t have a lot of crispness to any of his stuff. He’s not ready to pitch in a Major League game yet. So we have to do what’s best for him and what’s best for the club.”
Iwakuma will take a few extra days between rehab starts. His next outing has yet to be scheduled. Christian Bergman or Sam Gaviglio will make the start Saturday against Houston.
“Obviously Gaviglio and Bergy have both done a commendable job. I talked with (general manager Jerry Dipoto) last night and we’re going to talk again today and see what fits best, see what the matchup looks like. We’re going to need a starter on Saturday, and both of them could fill the role,” Servais said.
• Jean Segura is scheduled to play nine innings in Tacoma Tuesday night. There is a good chance he could return Thursday in the finale against the Tigers.
• Nelson Cruz continues to hold the lead in All-Star balloting at DH, although the Yankees’ DH, Matt Holiday, is making a charge. You can vote at MLB.com if you haven’t already. Robinson Cano the only other Mariners player in the top five in voting at his position. He currently is fifth at second base behind Jose Altuve, Starlin Castro, Jason Kipnis and Dustin Pedroia.