Mike Zunino, the 21-year-old catcher who was the No. 3 overall pick in this year’s draft, signed a contract with the Seattle Mariners, passed his physical and will be introduced to the media today.
The University of Florida junior led his team in batting average (.323) home runs (19) and RBI (67) and won the Johnny Bench Award as the top collegiate catcher.
Though the Mariners have 22-year-old Jesus Montero learning the position on the job, the franchise does not have catching depth, and Zunino could quickly move up through the organization.
“You never have enough catchers. Fortunately, in our league, we have a DH. As you move forward, things happen,” general manager Jack Zduriencik said at the draft. “We do think this guy is a very nice receiver. We like Montero an awful lot. They’ll both be in our plans as we move forward.”
The 6-foot-4, 220 pound Zunino was Baseball America’s Collegiate Player of the Year for 2012.
“I liked him as a high school player,’’ Mariners scouting director Tom McNamara said when the Mariners drafted Zunino. “I liked his defense and leadership ability. I knew he had instincts. He comes from a baseball family. When he signed with Florida, we tracked him. We’ve watched him for three years. He’s steady.
“He doesn’t jump out and wow you like other players. What you get at the end of the day is a steady, hard-nosed, tough kid who has power and can really catch.’’
Outfielder Michael Saunders got a good night of sleep and, for the first time in three days, wanted breakfast Monday.
“I had cereal and a banana and kept it down,” Saunders said of the flu-like symptoms that sidelined him over the weekend. “It was the first time in a long time I had solid food.”
That got him feeling better, but not quite ready for a major league game.
“I’m going to give it another day, try to get my strength back and get in there (tonight),” Saunders said.
The Mariners will be happy to have him back. Saunders is batting .258 in 75 games, with eight home runs and 24 RBI – and leads the team with 12 stolen bases.
Manager Eric Wedge rolled out his 70th different lineup of the season Monday in the Mariners’ 82nd game. … When Chone Figgins picked up the game-winning RBI against Boston on Thursday, it was the seventh game-ending RBI of his career. Figgins has five hits, a bases-loaded walk and now a sacrifice fly to end games. … When the Mariners stole three bases Sunday, it was for the second time this season. A year ago, Seattle had three or more stolen bases 11 times. … Josh Kinney, the 33-year-old reliever brought up from Triple-A Tacoma, was warming up in the bullpen in the 10th inning of Seattle’s loss Sunday. His wife was in the stands, but Kinney said she won’t be there every night. “We have a young son, and she’s seen me pitch before,” Kinney deadpanned.
Seattle plays host to Baltimore in a 7:10 p.m. game today that will be televised on Root Sports. Probable starting pitchers: Baltimore’s Wei-Yin Chen (7-4, 3.73 ERA) vs. Felix Hernandez (6-5, 3.09).email@example.com blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners @LarryLaRue