Zunino’s signing another step in M’s development
Big day today for the Mariners as they presented first-round draft pick Mike Zunino to the media after he signed with the club on Monday night. Now we’ve got Felix Hernandez on the hill tonight at Safeco against the Orioles, plus Danny Hultzen pitching in AAA Tacoma and James Paxton returning to action today in AA Jackson.
Hard as it is to be patient, there are signs of the future all around these days. A couple of those are back in the Mariners lineup tonight as well, with Justin Smoak and Jesus Montero returning to action after getting Monday off to take a break from their recent struggles.
Both those guys are integral parts of the plan, obviously, and the second half of this season will be critical toward their continuing development.
The same is true of Michael Saunders, also back tonight after missing the past four games with stomach flu. Saunders has been one of the pleasant surprises this season — as well as another glaring reminder that sometimes it takes time for guys to put things together at the Major League level.
Last year it was Mike Carp. This year it’s Saunders. Speaking of Carp, he took batting practice for the first time since going on the DL yesterday and is hopeful that he can continue hitting this week and then perhaps head out on a rehab assignment soon.
Zunino, Hultzen, Paxton, Taijuan Walker … these guys are a year or two away. In the meantime, if Montero, Smoak, Kyle Seager, Dustin Ackley, Carp, Saunders and Casper Wells can develop into consistent big-league hitters and the Mariners add a veteran bat or two into that mix, then you’ve got something pretty interesting.
Will it happen overnight? Obviously not. The Mariners are 35-47, they’re not hitting at home and most of those young players are still losing their footing frequently on that slippery learning curve. It’s unlikely that every prospect turns into exactly what the Mariners are hoping.
But they’ll keep adding pieces — Zunino being another — and pushing forward. Sometimes you get frustration and sometimes you get moments like Monday night’s 6-3 win with Wells hitting a big bases-loaded double and Ackley finally looking like Ackley with an eighth-inning home run.
Tonight comes Felix, fresh off three straight pitching gems during which he’s gone 2-0 with a 0.78 ERA and struck out 30 in 23 innings. That’s good stuff and we’ll see if he can carry that momentum now as the season enters its second half.
Here’s tonight’s full against lineup against Orioles lefty Wei-Yin Chen (7-4, 3.73):
Ichiro Suzuki RF
Casper Wells LF
Kyle Seager 3B
Jesus Montero DH
Miguel Olivo C
Michael Saunders CF
Justin Smoak 1B
Dustin Ackley 2B
Brendan Ryan SS
Felix Hernandez RHP