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Zunino handling transition to Majors with ease

ANAHEIM -- Mike Zunino has proven to be a quick learner in his first few Major League Baseball games and the Mariners' rookie catcher says he's welcomed help from all angles since getting called up six days ago from Triple-A Tacoma.

His most direct help the last few days has come from new teammate Henry Blanco, the veteran catcher signed Friday when Kelly Shoppach was designated for assignment. Blanco's primary role is to help mentor Zunino, who is 19 years younger at age 22.

"It's been awesome," Zunino said before Monday's series opener with the Angels. "He's a guy with a lot of knowledge and I'm just looking forward every day to being around him and just picking his brain for as much as I can.

"He looks no part of 41, the way he catches and the way he plays. It's one of those things where I'd love to be playing like he is at that age. It's awesome. It really is."

Zunino said he's leaned on teammates like Raul Ibanez and Kyle Seager for off-field details on what to wear and how to handle himself in certain situations and he's been pleasantly surprised by the information provided in scouting reports from the club's advance scouts prior to each game.

"They're more in-depth and everything is just kind of handed to you," he said. "All you have to do is watch a little film and sort of get a feel on them and everything else is sort of laid out on paper for you."

That said, Zunino's quick success is a tribute to his own preparation and skills. He works out early every day in the cage, taking extra swings and then does stretching and conditioning work. Once or twice a week in the Minors, he spent time with a pitching machine doing defensive fundamental drills and he intends to renew that routine once he gets settled in with the Mariners.

"I try to keep everything as fine-tuned as possible," he said.

"He pays attention well," manager Eric Wedge said. "He's always talking to somebody. He's a good listener, asking good questions. He's a student of the game."

It's all added up to a nice start as Zunino hit .300 in his first three games with a home run and has handled himself impeccably behind the plate. And day by day, his comfort level is increasing.

"Yeah, it's one of those things where everything has gone smoothly so far," Zunino said. "So I'm just looking to hopefully continuing in the right direction."

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