PHILADELPHIA – Mike Zunino lifted his elbow and showed off the red mark like a brand-new tattoo. The area was pink from an ice pack. In the middle of the uneven circle of cold skin was the distinct red marking from the seams of a baseball that had struck him.
In the sixth inning of Tuesday’s win, Zunino was hit by a 91 mph fastball from Phillies starter A.J. Burnett.
“It was a funny-bone shot,” he said. “Once you have one there, it’s all the same, isn’t it?”
The average person might disagree. The pain of getting hit by a pitch that hard and in that location might crumple them to the ground. Zunino didn’t even rub it, jogging to first as if he’d been stung by a mosquito.
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Perhaps he’s just numb to any pain after taking so many baseballs off his body. Besides the wear and tear that comes with playing baseball’s hardest position, Zunino has been hit by pitches 14 times this season — most in the American League.
“I lead in something, right?” Zunino said. “I must lead in the ones where I can’t get out of the way, because that one was coming right at me. I feel any way I moved on that one, it was going to get me. The last place I want to get hit is the ribs, so I’ll take one in the arm.”
To be fair to Zunino, he leads the league in something else. His 18 home runs lead all catchers in the American League. But homers don’t leave bruises and marks like being hit by a ball.
He’s been hit in the thigh, the elbow, the forearm, the back, the ribs and even directly between the shoulder blades. There are times when he won’t move on an inside breaking ball, wearing it off the shoulder and happily taking first base. But there have been other times where he simply couldn’t get out oft the way.
“What can you do? It’s an ugly finder, I guess,” he said.
Zunino has more hits-by-pitches than walks (13). And with a .210 batting average and .273 on-base percentage, he isn’t turning down free trips to first no matter how much they hurt.
The Mariners’ club record for getting hit by pitches is 19, set by Jose Guillen in 2007.
Ackley gets a day off
After starting 33 games in a row, left fielder Dustin Ackley was out of the lineup Wednesday as manager Lloyd McClendon tried to give him a rest before the upcoming series against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park.
“It’s a chance to give him two days, actually,” McClendon said, referencing Thursday’s off day. “He’s been going at it real hard. This is a chance to get him cleaned up and ready for the stretch run. I just thought we should take advantage of it.”
Ackley did pinch-hit in Wednesday’s loss, striking out.
Ryan Divish: 206-464-2373 or firstname.lastname@example.org