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McClendon bumps Zunino up in lineup

SEATTLE -- After hitting eighth or ninth in the Mariners batting order for the first two months of the season, young catcher Mike Zunino was moved up to the fifth spot for Monday's series opener with the Angels as manager Lloyd McClendon looked to spark his struggling offense.

McClendon has been hesitant to bat the 23-year-old higher in the lineup, given the heavy load he's already carrying as the Mariners starting catcher in his first full season in the Majors. But Zunino has hit .244 with six home runs and 18 RBIs coming into Monday's action, and Seattle is shy on right-handed hitting options.

"I'm still hesitant," McClendon said of the move. "But we have to do something to try to balance things out a little. I'm just trying to be proactive. … Just trying to shake things up and score some runs some kind of way. We'll put him into RBI situation and see if he can click for us."

McClendon has been impressed with the rapid development of the team's 2012 first-round Draft pick on both sides of the plate.

"I think he's been great," McClendon said. "To think how far he's come this fast and to handle a staff the way he's handled it, I think he's just been fantastic. I think he's real close to being an All-Star type of catcher. I don't think he's there yet, but if he continues to work, he's got a chance to be."

Greg Johns is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog.
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