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Zunino's promotion paying off defensively for M's

By Brent Stecker

Mariners catcher Mike Zunino isn't exactly setting the league on fire. His slash line at the All-Star break sits at .230/.277/.299, and the 22-year-old has just one home run, seven RBI and four walks to 22 strikeouts in 87 at-bats in the MLB.

zunino safeco joe
Mariners catcher Mike Zunino, shown here talking with pitcher Joe Saunders, has been the "best catcher we've seen all season" for the Mariners, according to M's broadcaster Aaron Goldsmith. (AP)

But that is only half of the equation for a rookie backstop, and the other half is going quite well for the 2012 No. 3 overall draft pick.

Zunino has played well beyond his years defensively, showing the Mariners fan base why general manager Jack Zduriencik and company decided to fast-track him through the minor leagues.

Mariners broadcaster Aaron Goldsmith raved about Zunino's skills behind the plate on "Seattle Sports at Night," explaining that he is earning his playing time with his glove.

"I was very encouraged and impressed with the trio of young guys more recently called up in Zunino, (second baseman Nick) Franklin and (shortstop Brad) Miller," Goldsmith said. "There was a lot of talk, especially with Zunino because of the position that he plays and because of the lack of time he had in the minor leagues, about whether or not he would be ready to be in the majors at this point. My goodness, he has stepped in, especially defensively, and just looked like the best catcher we've seen all season long behind the plate."

Zunino, who is sharing time with veteran Henry Blanco at catcher, even started to hit more consistently before the break. Over his last 10 games, Zunino has collected 10 of his 20 hits on the season, including a 3 for 4 effort with a double, run, RBI and no strikeouts on July 12 against the Angels.

"He's certainly a major league catcher defensively, and I think we've really started to see some signs of life from his bat in the last maybe seven to 10 games," Goldsmith said. "There's been some strides forward from him offensively."

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