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Hits coming for Zunino after slow start

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Mike Zunino's hitless spring evaporated on Saturday when Seattle's top hitting prospect broke an 0-for-7 skid with the first home run of his Spring Training career. Zunino, the third overall pick in last year's First-Year Player Draft, delivered a single later in the game, and followed that up with a double in the second inning of Sunday's game against the Rangers.

Zunino, the Golden Spikes Award-winner last year at the University of Florida, had played in five Spring Training games before coming up with his first hit. The catcher has been spending much of his time just settling in and learning pitch sequences, and he was thrilled to finally get on the board.

"I would've taken any hit," he said. "I was feeling good at the plate and I had some good at-bats. It was nice to have my first hit, and to have it be a home run was even better. Once the first one falls, everything else falls into place from there. I'm just trying to keep having a good approach."

Zunino, of course, was still in college at this point last year, and he said his first taste of big league Spring Training has been educational. The young catcher said he's still trying to learn what the pitchers on his staff like to throw, and he's pairing that with learning how to approach the plate as a hitter.

Zunino made it as far as Double-A Jackson last year, batting .333 with three home runs in 15 games. Now that he's in big league camp, he's making sure to soak up every bit of information he can. Veteran catcher Kelly Shoppach, one of Zunino's clubhouse neighbors, has been particularly helpful.

"He definitely offers everything he has to know about the game," said Zunino. "He'll fill you with all the knowledge he has, and I'm grateful for that. Not a lot of people like to share all that information that they've found and has made them successful. It's made me a better ballplayer already."

"There's more than just playing the game," added Shoppach. "When you get around older guys that have put in a lot of work to get to the big leagues and stay in the big leagues as long as they have. Sometimes, it's just as important for off-the-field stuff as on."