Zunino will handle bulk of catching duties
ANAHEIM -- Having a young catcher leading a young pitching staff would be a concern for some managers, but Mariners skipper Lloyd McClendon believes Mike Zunino has shown he's ready to take on the task.
Zunino, 23, started 48 games last year as a rookie after being called up midseason, and he'll be behind the plate for the vast majority of games this year if all goes according to plan.
"I've been really pleased," McClendon said prior to Monday's opener against the Angels. "He's made some progressions. We've tried to take it one step at a time not to put too much on his plate. But he's handled everything we've asked him to do and done a pretty good job with it."
The 2012 first-round Draft choice played only 96 games in the Minors before getting promoted last year. Seattle signed veteran John Buck to work with Zunino, but Buck's role clearly is to back up the youngster.
"Obviously, Zunino is our catcher," McClendon said. "J.B. will get his time according to matchups."
Zunino hit .214 with five home runs and 14 RBIs in 173 at-bats last year and was penciled in to the No. 9 hole on Opening Day, but McClendon sees more coming offensively. Zunino hit .239 with five doubles, two home runs and five RBIs in 46 at-bats in Cactus League action.
"I thought he swung the bat pretty good," McClendon said. "He has the ability to hit the ball out of the ballpark to all fields. He's getting a better knowledge of the strike zone. I think in time he's going to be a run producer at catcher."