After hitting .199 in 2014, the Mariners catcher is batting .345 (10 for 29) with three doubles, three homers and six strikeouts this spring.
TEMPE, Ariz. — It’s been well-documented by managers, players, writers and fans that spring-training stats are meaningless when trying to project regular-season numbers.
It’s why managers don’t panic when established players put up subpar stats in the spring. It’s forgotten that All-Star third baseman Kyle Seager hit .191 (13 for 68) with 15 strikeouts last spring.
And yet, there is some meaning in them. For players trying to make adjustments, positive results are never a bad thing. They bring confidence and quantify swing changes and hitting approaches.
Angels 5, Mariners 0
Notable: At Tempe Diablo Stadium, the Mariners did little offensively, mustering just two hits. ... Mariners starter Erasmo Ramirez did not make it out of the second inning. An error by shortstop Willie Bloomquist started the inning, and Ramirez gave up hits to four of the next six batters to allow four runs.
Player of the game: Jordan Pries continues to impress the Mariners’ coaching staff. Called on in the third inning, Pries tossed three scoreless innings, giving up two hits and striking out one. He allowed leadoff singles to start the fourth and fifth innings, and the runners did not advance into scoring position.
Quotable: “He did a nice job. He threw strikes, worked in and out and held runners. I said three weeks ago I was impressed with him. And he hasn’t disappointed.” — Manager Lloyd McClendon, on Pries.
On tap: The Mariners are back at Peoria Stadium on Tuesday against the Padres. Seattle will start lefty J.A. Happ.
Mariners catcher Mike Zunino is an example of this.
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Last spring, he hit .239 (11 for 46) with five doubles, two homers, seven walks and 14 strikeouts. This spring, Zunino is hitting .345 (10 for 29) with three doubles, three homers and six strikeouts.
He had one of the two hits the Mariners managed Monday in a 5-0 defeat against the Angels.
After hitting just .199 last season with 20 doubles and 22 home runs and striking out a team-high 158 times, Zunino wants to become more than an all-or-nothing hitter. He worked hard in the offseason to improve on pitch recognition, hitting the ball to right field and being better with two strikes.
The spring numbers seem to indicate improvement.
“You like to look at things and compare, and there’s some improvement there,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “Obviously, in the big scheme of things, spring doesn’t count. But you like to have those positive results. It solidifies his conviction into what he’s trying to do — that it works. This helps.”
McClendon was quick to caution that Zunino is far from a finished product.
“I had to remind some people the other day — he’s doing really good with his two-strike approach, but that doesn’t mean he’s not going to strike out,” McClendon said. “The best of them still strike out. We just want to cut them down. If he can put the ball in play instead of striking out, if he can strike out maybe 50 times less, we are probably going to have more positive things. His batting average is going to come up, and he’s going to drive in more runs.”
Zunino says it is helping.
“I’m just continuing to clean some stuff up,” he said. “Clean up my direction a little bit and still stay aggressive. It’s progressing. I’m feeling better at the plate. The pitch is going to dictate where you hit it. If my path and direction can stay to the pitch and trust my hands, that’s going to be the key.”
And with two strikes?
“I feel like I’m night and day better,” he said. “I feel like I know what I want to accomplish with two strikes. I feel like I have the base and trust myself now. Instead of going up there and hoping to get a pitch to hit, I know what I’m doing with two strikes. … It’s always nice to get some two-strike hits and know that you can get them.”
• Instead of pitching against the Angels, who he will face in the opening series of the season, Hisashi Iwakuma pitched in Peoria against the Rangers’ Class AAA team. Iwakuma tossed five innings, giving up two runs and six hits with a walk and eight strikeouts. He threw 72 pitches with 44 strikes.
• Willie Bloomquist made his first start at shortstop in Cactus League play. He played all nine innings and made an error.