SHANNON DRAYER

Mariners’ Mike Zunino gets back on track by taking a pair of pitches

Apr 24, 2018, 4:37 PM | Updated: Apr 26, 2018, 9:11 am
Mariners C Mike Zunino had his first two hits of the season Monday, including a home run. (AP)...
Mariners C Mike Zunino had his first two hits of the season Monday, including a home run. (AP)
(AP)

CHICAGO – Mike Zunino checking into the Mariners season with his first hit being a monster home run is fun. How he got to that home run is interesting, and perhaps reassuring that the Zunino we see now at the plate is far different than the one we saw in his first 4 1/2 seasons.

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I talked to Mike about his approach heading into his fourth game of the season in this conversation for the Mariners Clubhouse Insider interview on Tuesday’s pregame show Tuesday.

Zunino’s season got off to a late start due to an oblique injury suffered just prior to opening day. All work during spring training to get into his swing and his timing was lost. Prior to Monday’s game, he had gone 2 for 13 with seven strikeouts in three rehab games and 0 for 9 with six strikeouts in his first three games back with the Mariners.

He went into the game against the White Sox with a plan to do what was necessary to get his rhythm back at the plate. In his first at-bat he looked at the first two pitches with absolutely no intention of swinging.

“It was just getting the rhythm and feeling my mechanics,” he said. “Just seeing some pitches and being on time. I’m behind the 8-ball a little bit with ABs. I need to see some pitches and get back into that rhythm as soon as I can.”

If it means sacrificing a couple of strikes in a game to get where he wants to be at the plate, Zunino is prepared to do so. That takes confidence in what he is doing, and with where Zunino is now as a hitter and the understanding he has for his swing, it is an easy trade to make.

“When you can do that and gain something from those takes and taking a strike you feel a lot better,” he said. “When you put yourself in a hole being over-aggressive, swinging early, that’s when you start to feel bad and a little anxious at the plate. So being able to see pitches like that, feel comfortable, getting my timing down, you don’t have a problem getting deeper in at-bats.”

Sometimes, like in Zunino’s second at-bat, you are rewarded with a home run.

“I had the results I wanted after the first one,” he said. “I was able to take until I got a strike, I was able to drive the ball to right field, I just missed it. I saw all of his pitches. Going into the second at-bat, I knew what I was looking for, where I wanted the fastball to start, took again until I got a strike and I was able to get a fastball over the middle third of the plate.”

Zunino finished the night 2 for 4 with the home run and a solid single to left.

The audio also includes Zunino sharing how he takes and keeps notes on what he is doing at the plate, plus an update on his Aussie Shepard pup and lesson learned about keeping his baseball memorabilia put away safely with the new addition to the Zunino household.

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