By Miles Liatos Sports Radio KJR
When you’re general manager of the Seattle Mariners, and you haven’t had a winning season since 2009, you’re going to have a sense of urgency.
That urgency may be exactly what prompted M’s GM Jack Zduriencik to call up AAA catcher Mike Zunino. Zunino bears lofty expectations after being drafted third overall in the 2012 draft. He has been a pro for just under a year, making him an early call-up by major league standards.
Former Mets GM Steve Phillips said Zduriencik needs to develop a “spark” in a Mariners organization that is 26th in the major leagues with a .238 batting average.
But the last time the Mariners tried to develop a catcher as a legitimate hitter, they sent him down to AAA May 23. Jesus Montero batted a mere .208 serving double-duty as a hitter and majority-time catcher. He is currently being transitioned to a DH/1B role, suggesting the learning of the catcher position hindered his ability to hit well.
Phillips said Zunino is a much more polished catcher, though.
“I think that part will come more quickly than anybody would’ve dreamed of with Montero,” Phillips said. “The question is how he’s going to handle it offensively.”
Zunino has been hitting for power in AAA, with 11 home runs and 43 RBI in 185 at-bats. However, his batting average is .238 with a .303 on-base percentage.
As Mitch pointed out, the main reason Zunino is being brought up is because of a lack of depth at the catcher position. Calling up Zunino is not ideal for his hitting, but his catching abilities will be called upon most in the coming games.
“They’re going to want him to come in and handle the [pitching] staff, and make that his priority,” Phillips said. “Whatever you get is gravy offensively.”