Zunino, Taylor headed to instructional league
SEATTLE -- Catcher Mike Zunino and infielder Chris Taylor are both headed to Arizona instructional league, Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon announced Tuesday. Neither was included among the four players called up from Triple-A Tacoma following the end of the Rainiers season in Las Vegas on Monday.
Zunino, 24, hit .174 in 112 games with 132 strikeouts with the Mariners this season before being optioned to Tacoma after Seattle's game in Chicago on Aug. 27. He hit . 317 in 10 games with the Rainiers to close out their season. Taylor, 25, hit .170 in 37 games with the Mariners this season and spent the majority of the year in Tacoma, where he hit an even .300 in 342 at-bats.
Zunino said at the end of last month that hitting in the Minor Leagues gave him a chance to slow his approach at the plate and focus on improving his offensive output without facing the everyday pressures of winning in the Major Leagues. Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said keeping the catcher in Arizona allows Zunino to continue to receive coaching away from the big league spotlight.
"It was an organizational decision to send Mike to instructional league to continue to work on things he was working on as far as his offense was concerned and not having him do it here in a pressure situation where the at-bats are so intense and so pressured," McClendon said. "Mike is still very much in our future. Going into Spring Training next year, I'll consider him my everyday catcher. We thought this was the best path moving forward for his career, so that's why he's not here."
McClendon said his position is one that requires balance in that he and the Mariners' front office have to focus both on winning immediately and the long-term scope of players' careers. In the case of Zunino, McClendon said the catcher stood to gain more from being able to make adjustments away from Seattle than facing Major League pitching for the final 24 games of the season.
"Once you get in that box and you're facing guys that are throwing 97, 98 miles per hour it's very difficult to [make changes]," McClendon said. "We want to slow things down for him a little bit, get him down there and get him in a situation where he can move forward one step at a time as opposed to here take one step forward and two steps back."
• Left-handed pitcher Mike Montgomery, who went 4-6 with a 4.60 ERA in 16 starts for the Mariners this season, was also not called up following the conclusion of Tacoma's season. Montgomery tossed back-to-back shutouts on June 23 and June 30 for Seattle, but went 1-4 with a 7.49 ERA in his next 10 starts. The 26-year-old lefty logged 155 1/3 innings between his time in Seattle and Tacoma this season.
"I think it was a combination of both [innings total and performance]," McClendon said of Mongtomery not being added to the expanded roster. "More than anything, just the innings were starting to build up."