ANAHEIM, Calif. — The education of Mike Zunino didn’t stop the day the Seattle Mariners named him their starting catcher. If anything, it intensified.
Since the decision to give Zunino the bulk of the playing time, the team designated catcher Kelly Shoppach for assignment, and brought in 41-year-old veteran catcher Henry Blanco to serve as a mentor.
Before Monday’s game at Angels Stadium, Zunino and Blanco sat in the dugout talking endlessly.
“It’s been awesome,” Zunino said. “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.”
This is typical pregame behavior for Zunino. He’s often seen trying to gather insight from somebody, mostly pitchers, but he doesn’t play favorites. He was later seen chatting with Kyle Seager, Raul Ibañez and pitching coach Carl Willis.
Zunino is always asking questions, but not in the pesty manner of a 4-year-old. He’s inquisitive with a purpose. And he listens carefully to the answers.
“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.”
The adjustments needed to make it in the bigs don’t all occur on field. A major league scouting report is vastly more detailed, and clubs expect it to be studied and followed.
“They’re more in-depth and everything is just kind of handed to you,” Zunino 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.”
But Zunino needs to learn more than baseball. He needs to know what to wear on road trips, how to tip and treat clubhouse attendants on the road, how to handle being a public figure. There are so many small things that have nothing to do with strapping on a chest protector.
“That’s the biggest thing, just getting used to all the small stuff. It makes life a lot easier when you can just focus on playing the game,” Zunino said.
Zunino takes his questions directly to Blanco, Ibanez and even Seager.
“You talk about a guy who knows how to act, Henry’s right there at the top of our list along with a couple other guys,” Wedge said. “Obviously, they share the same position, so that’s the difference. They are going to spend a lot of time together. There’s a right way to go about your business both on and off the field up here.”
HAMSTRING BOTHERS BAY
Jason Bay was out of the lineup after his hamstring knotted up late in Sunday’s 10-2 loss to the A’s. Bay tried to run before batting practice, but it was still tight.
“We talked about it, but we’d just be putting him in harm’s way if we put (him) out there,” Wedge said.
Michael Morse is feeling better, but his strained quad isn’t 100 percent healthy. But he was healthy enough to play first base for the third straight game. Kendrys Morales is being limited to designated hitter with a stiff back.
General manager Jack Zduriencik was in Sacramento watching the Rainiers for a second day in a row. That’s one reason why Justin Smoak hasn’t re-joined the Mainers. Zduriencik wanted to watch Smoak play on Monday and then talk with Wedge after the game to discuss the situation.
TWO DRAFT PICKS SIGN
The Mariners have signed two more players from the 2013 amateur draft: fourth-round pick Ryan Horstman, a left-handed pitcher out of St. John’s University, and 11th-round pick Zack Littell, a right-handed pitcher out of Eastern Alamance High School in Mebane, N.C. Horstman will report to Class-A Everett, while Littell will play for the rookie league Peoria Mariners in Arizona.
The Mariners have now signed 15 of 40 picks and 10 of their top 12 picks.
Second-round pick Austin Wilson, a power-hitting outfielder out of Stanford, is likely to sign in the next few days. A native of Los Angeles, Wilson is in the area and will possibly take batting practice and work out with the team when that happens. Wilson was projected as a top-10 pick but an elbow injury bothered him much of this season, limiting his numbers. There are reports that Wilson will sign for $1.5 million.
The series continues at 7:05 Tuesday at Anaheim Stadium. The Mariners are expected to start tight-hander Jeremy Bonderman (1-1, 3.86 ERA), while the Angels are likely to go with right-hander Joe Blanton (1-10, 5.87 ERA). The game will be broadcast on Root Sports and 710-AM.firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners