Mike Zunino is forcing Seattle's hand

Updated: April 11, 2013, 11:15 AM ET
By Buster Olney

The Seattle Mariners' season is still taking shape, and in the days ahead, they will have to play without Michael Saunders, who was hurt Wednesday in an ugly collision with the wall; he immediately reached up to the area of his right collarbone.

But an important part of the Mariners' future -- and 2013 season, in all likelihood -- is taking shape outside of Seattle. Catcher Mike Zunino, the No. 3 overall pick in last year's draft, is off to a strong start in Triple-A, and is starting to build his case for promotion. Zunino dominated Class A and Double-A last season, and has eight extra-base hits in his first six games for Tacoma.

Seattle GM Jack Zduriencik ran through the list of Zunino's specific skills in a phone conversation Wednesday afternoon -- good power, quick release, average to slightly above-average throwing arm. But the most important part of the impression that Zunino left in spring training was how well he fit in, how at ease he was in a major league clubhouse. As Jim Caple wrote in this piece from a few weeks ago, Zunino's mother was a catcher on the Italian softball team, and his dad was a minor leaguer.

Zunino, then, has been in the arena his whole life, and has seemed to develop a comfort with the process. Zduriencik said, "For that position, that's a really good quality. He's got a good presence. He asks great questions. He sits around and talks with older guys, and he's not intimidated at all."