Mariners catcher Mike Zunino’s work on throwing out base stealers has translated into some success this season.

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The success this season started in the early weeks of February when Mike Zunino decided to add to his already long work days at spring training with some extra time spent on throwing out base stealers.

It’s something the Mariners catchers already spent a fair amount of time on in their day to day work. But Zunino wanted just a little more.

“Early in spring I wanted to iron some stuff out,” he said. “I felt like at the end of last year I threw the ball well and it was a focus I wanted to take. If I could help the team out in that aspect, save 90 feet, it’s big. I’ve been able to get some pitches to throw on and really not try to do too much except put it on the bag.”

That work has translated into some success this season. On Saturday afternoon, he threw out his 10th attempted base stealer of the season, cutting down Mallex Smith in the seventh inning with a perfect throw to second base. Zunino has thrown out 10 of 24 runners for a 42 percent caught-stealing percentage. Only Salvador Perez of the Royals has a better percentage (58.8) of qualified catchers, throwing out 10 of the 17 attempted base stealers.

Even more impressive, Zunino has thrown out six of the eight runners attempting to steal bases in the seventh inning or later in games. It’s the highest success rate of any catcher in baseball. He ended Friday night’s win by throwing out Joey Wendle at second on a steal attempt for the final out of the game.

“Z has been great throwing a lot of guys out late in games,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “Those are big outs. They’re hard to get and other teams are gambling, taking a chance, and when you can take the air out of their rally, it’s awesome.”

Zunino’s throw to get Wendle had a “pop time” of 1.93 seconds. A “pop time” for a catcher is the time elapsed from when a pitch hits his glove and arrives in the glove of the defender at second base. The 1.93 by Zunino is the best by any catcher this season, according to statcast. The league average is 2.01.

Part of the improved throwing success is patience.

“I’m letting the ball get to me,” he said.

It’s something that Servais and his staff have preached to the always excitable Zunino. It allows him to stay within his fundamentals.

“The ball is always going to travel faster, so letting it get to you allows him to load up and really use his lower half to throw,” Servais said. “When catchers start reaching for the ball, that’s when the footwork gets a little long and the arm drags, and you get the tail on the throws. It’s hard, late in the game like that, you know the guy might go and you’re anticipating it and your first reaction is to go get it.”

Segura gets a scare

The Mariners’ postseason hopes almost came to painful end when the sickening sound of a 96 mph pitch from Blake Snell struck Jean Segura on the hand in the second inning. Segura let out a scream after the ball hit him. Servais and athletic trainer Rob Nodine immediately rushed on to the field to tend to him.

After a few tests, Segura remained in the game. He played all nine innings and got two hits and scored two runs.

“We actually got lucky,” Servais said. “My first thought when I left the dugout to check on him was that it wouldn’t be good. He got it right on the side. He felt fine after that.”

It was the first batter that Snell had hit in his career. He had made 57 starts and faced 1,256 batters without hitting a batter.