WILL MIKE ZUNINO FIND HIS HITTING STROKE?
After starting the past two seasons in Seattle, catcher Mike Zunino is expected to be in the minors for a while. And the team’s focus will be getting the University of Florida product to start hitting again.
First-year Rainiers hitting coach Scott Brosius has already had a few conversations with Zunino during the spring.
“I asked him, ‘When was the last time you felt great at the plate — and what were your swing thoughts?’ ” Brosius said. “He has tried so many things. We need to find those one or two (good) things again.”
Last season, Zunino hit .170 with the Mariners, so the organization would love for him to get 450 quality at-bats in Tacoma this season.
WHAT IS THE EXPECTATION FOR JAMES PAXTON?
Everyone knows what left-handed pitcher James Paxton is capable of at the major league level. He has 12 career wins and sports a 3.16 ERA in the big leagues.
But last May, he suffered a finger tendon injury that landed him on the disabled list. In September, a torn fingernail ended his season with just 67 innings pitched.
That prompted Rainiers manager Pat Listach to emphasize the most important number for Paxton in Tacoma this season.
“Twenty-five to 30 starts,” Listach said.
First-year Rainiers pitching coach Lance Painter wants his new ace to work aggressively, attacking the strike zone with good tempo.
CAN SHAWN O’MALLEY PLAY EVERY POSITION THIS YEAR?
Richland native Shawn O’Malley figures to get the bulk of his playing time in the infield — primarily at shortstop and second base.
But last year he played every position but first base, pitcher and catcher, and was eventually promoted to Seattle when the rosters expanded Sept. 1.
The organization wants him to concentrate on becoming better at shortstop, where he is expected to play a couple times a week.
“I think it would be fun (to play every position) — especially just once to say I did it,” O’Malley said. “But at end of day, if it was between that and playing in the big leagues for 10 years — I’ll take the big leagues.”
WHY WILL ED LUCAS BE EASY TO ROOT FOR?
The former Ivy League player of the year from Dartmouth knows he is in his final seasons of baseball.
That is OK, because Lucas is already being courted for front-office positions all around major-league baseball.
For now, he will be with the Rainiers as another one of their super-utility players. Lucas spent two seasons (2013, 2014) with the Miami Marlins, and is the likely veteran voice in the Tacoma clubhouse.
“This is my ninth year in Triple-A, and eighth year in the (Pacific Coast League),” said Lucas, who was in the Texas organization last season. “I relish the opportunity to impart some wisdom at times.”
WHAT DOES EFREN NAVARRO BRING?
In a word — experience.
Navarro spent five seasons at Triple-A Salt Lake as the first baseman, but his path was blocked by Albert Pujols.
Seattle signed him March 2 as a reliable left-handed insurance policy for Adam Lind, who is the Mariners’ starting first baseman.
Navarro hit .316 with 32 home runs for his career in Salt Lake. He can also play either corner outfield spot.
“He is a big league hitter, and I have told him that,” Listach said.