Mike Zunino gets the day off. Eric Wedge mentioned it last night postgame, complimenting the rookie catcher and how hard he worked, particularly blocking pitches in the dirt from Hisashi Iwakuma with runners on base. Henry Blanco will get the start instead.
Zunino never takes a pitch off. And the Mariners have had plenty of past catchers that liked to take more than a few pitches off per game. It’s a mental and physical grind. It’s why Wedge gave him the day. Also it’s day game after a night game as well.
“It’s just everything,” Wedge said. “It’s the mental, it’s the physical. He’s done a great job. I love the fact he’s in on every pitch. He doesn’t take a pitch off. As a catcher, that’s how you have to be if you’re going to be a championship-caliber player and that’s what he’s shown us so far. Because we have put a lot on him so quickly, I’ve got to give him periodic days off.”
With Felix Hernandez throwing today, it seemed like a good time as well. Catching Hernandez can be a grind.
“He’s so tough to catch and has such great stuff,” Wedge said. “He can throw anything at any point in time. I don’t even think he knows what some of his pitches are going to do because he’s so nasty. You’re definitely taking more on when you catch him.”
Zunino has been very solid at blocking pitches since being called up. There are a few things that could be polished. But he gives maximum effort and makes the proper effort. He’s also has a level of athleticism that past Mariners have had. Pitchers have confidence in him. They know they can throw a pitch in the dirt and he’ll block it.
“He’s a big help behind the plate,” Iwakuma said postgame. “You have a lot of confidence in him, and that gives you a lot of confidence to be able to bounce those split fingers and those sliders in front of the plate. That helps a lot to get these guys out.”
For Zunino, it’s part of the job.
“We can’t shy away from throwing his best pitch sometimes,” Zunino said. That’s what we need. With the split, you aren’t going to know exactly where it’s going, but you just have to have trust in yourself and trust in him and center up the baseball when you block it.”