Zunino ready to become Mariners everyday catcher

PEORIA, Ariz. (AP) - Now that he's spent some time in the major leagues, Seattle Mariners catcher Mike Zunino expects big things.

"To get up there and have 50 games under your belt, it's just nice to know. You know what to expect. You know what you need to do, the kind of work you need to put in," Zunino said. "It makes the transition going into this year a little bit easier."

The former third overall pick of the 2012 draft caught 50 games last season but hit only .214 while striking out 49 times in 173 plate appearances. He's got plenty to work on in spring training, but has gone from trying to make the club out of spring training last year to gearing up for the top job in 2014.

The 22-year-old Zunino acknowledged that making the adjustment from Triple-A to the majors so quickly was difficult. A broken bone in his left hand that led to six weeks on the disabled list stalled his progress.

"The biggest thing was just being prepared every day," he said. "The amount of stuff given to you and expected of you was what I needed to get used to.

"Last year it was just the constant trying to prove yourself. This year is the same thing, you never want to take that for granted," Zunino added. "But it's one of those things where now I can have conversations with the pitchers and discuss what they want to change from last year, what they've been working on in the offseason and sort of develop that relationship a little bit more."

About a month after his call up, the Boston Red Sox came through Safeco Field for a series. It was one of Zunino's "welcome to the show" moments.

"To face that lineup and see how they were playing at that time, it's always a good challenge to see where you stand," he said.

Zunino talks often about the position with his manager, former big league catcher Lloyd McClendon. He also has veteran backstop John Buck to lean on. Buck is being asked to help guide Zunino while preparing himself to play should it take more time for Zunino to produce.

"He's a young kid that got to the big leagues at a rapid pace. The learning curve is really big for him," McClendon said. "Every day's a new adventure for him and we can't lose sight of that. But at the same time he has to be good. He has to be productive. We're not developing at the big league level. Our job is to win games and he needs to be an integral part of that."

NOTES: McClendon views RHP Brandon Maurer, who made the major league club out of camp last spring, as another candidate for the starting rotation. Seattle has several pitchers up for potentially two spots in the rotation to open the season because Hisashi Iwakuma (injured finger) will likely join the rotation soon after the season starts. Maurer was 5-8 with 14 starts and eight relief appearances last season, which he split between Seattle and Triple-A Tacoma. . Hector Noesi, Erasmo Ramirez, Randy Wolf and former Minnesota Twins pitcher Scott Baker are also in the starting rotation competition mix. . McClendon plans to hold an intrasquad game on Feb. 25, two days before the first spring training game.


(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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