Zunino isn’t happy with his production and he’s trying figure out a way to make it better.
DETROIT – Mike Zunino will have Thursday afternoon’s game against the Tigers off.
While catchers typically get the day game after a night game off, Zunino hasn’t done that yet after the All-Star break. He’s caught every inning of the road trip. Another reason for the off day is Zunino’s struggles against scheduled starter David Price. Zunino is 0 for 10 with nine strikeouts against the All-Star left-hander.
Zunino is trading back and forth with Kansas City’s Salvador Perez for the lead for innings caught this season. Going into Wednesday’s game, Perez was at 708 innings and Zunino 707. But Zunino has appeared in more games (86) and caught more complete games (77) than any other catcher.
That’s a stunning number considering he’s hitting .166 with 106 strikeouts this season.
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But with Jesus Sucre still serving as a backup, Zunino is still the better option, plus there is preference in having him catch Felix Hernandez, Taijuan Walker and Mike Montgomery at all times.
“Obviously from a physical standpoint, any time you get a day off, it’s going to help,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “I’m not so sure how much it helps mentally. Right now, it’s not a concern because he’s swinging the bat as good as he’s swung it all year. He’s feeling good about how he’s approaching things at the plate. That’s certainly not part of the decision going into tomorrow.”
If you watch closely Zunino has made some changes to his hand placement and trigger on the swing. He’s gone back to a wider stance with a minimal trigger to start the swing (lifting up the foot). The hands are not as high. They start closer to the body in a looser position. It’s something he started in the Detroit series after an abysmal series against the Yankees.
“I just wanted to get back wide again to where I feel comfortable and try to get my hands in a position where they feel pretty strong and attack the baseball from there,” he said. “I’m just trying to get back to where it’s been comfortable. The frustrating part was in New York I felt like I got some great pitches to hit. I got some breaking balls up in the zone that I like to hit. I knew something wasn’t quite right. Whatever it was, I was recognizing the pitches, I was seeing them quite well and I just couldn’t get there.”
Is this a guarantee for success? No. But Zunino obviously isn’t happy with his production and he’s trying to figure out a way to make it better. Zunino has tried narrowing his stance and other things. Now he’s going back to a wider stance and trying to simplify and find a comfort level.
It’s been a trying year for Zunino. After a brilliant spring training, he’s struggled to find any sort of consistent success at the plate. While fans lament his sub-.200 batting average, seeing it on the video board every time he steps the plate isn’t enjoyable either.
“Coming off a good spring, I was just trying to carry it into the season,” he said. “I was trying to make adjustments too early in the year instead of trusting of what I was doing. And that led to getting into a funk and it lasted a lot longer than you ever expect it would. You have to just look at it as a learning process.”
• Major League Baseball announced the results of the fourth-annual Competitive Balance Lottery for additional picks in the 2016 MLB draft. The drawing was conducted Wednesday afternoon. The Mariners were eligible for a Round B pick, but were not chosen. They won a pick last season and used it to take right-handed pitcher Andrew Moore out of Oregon State.
• McClendon stayed with the new setup of Kyle Seager batting No. 2, Nelson Cruz batting No. 3 and Robinson Cano batting cleanup for the third straight game. “I kind of like it,” McClendon said. “I see him staying there for quite a while.”
• In 17 games in July, Cano is hitting .352 (25 for 71) with five doubles, five home runs and 12 RBI and a 1.029 OPS.