Zunino makes adjustments at Triple-A

Seattle's No. 3 prospect breaks out of slump with four RBIs

By Jake Seiner / Special to MLB.com | April 22, 2013 10:18 PM ET

Mike Zunino didn't have much trouble handling pitchers in short-season or Double-A last year, posting a 1.137 OPS across the two levels in 44 games.

So when he slumped into an 0-for-20 stretch last week in his first run against Triple-A pitching, the question was: How quickly can he recover?

Two games later, seems like Zunino's bounced back just fine.

The Mariners' No. 3 prospect posted his second straight two-hit game Monday, driving in four runs in Tacoma's 13-11 loss to Salt Lake.

"I think it's one of those things where you just have to keep working," Zunino said. "You can't get too high when you're doing good, and you can't beat yourself up when things are going bad. You just have to keep the same approach."

Zunino, ranked 23rd on MLB.com's Top 100, added a double and a walk as he lifted his batting average to .259. The extra-base hit was his 10th in 14 games in the Pacific Coast League.

In the short time he's been there, Zunino has noticed pitchers adjusting their approaches with him at the plate. Seattle's first-round pick (third overall) in last year's First-Year Player Draft has feasted on fastballs in the Minor Leagues, and in the Northwest and Southern Leagues, he saw plenty after signing last season.

Triple-A pitchers, many of whom have already reached the Major Leagues, have been attacking Zunino with more off-speed pitches than he's ever seen.

"I think pitchers in Triple-A really know how to pitch," Zunino said. "Guys in the lower levels have great stuff and they have to trust in that, but in Triple-A, the guys can pitch. That's the biggest thing. I've noticed in hitters' counts, I'm not getting fastballs. I'm getting sinkers or cutters or something different that isn't straight."

Being with Tacoma has also broadened Zunino's horizons as a catcher. The Rainiers rotation is filled with some aspiring prospects such as Danny Hultzen and James Paxton, but also features veterans with big league experience, like Jeremy Bonderman.

 "You have to know what they want to throw in certain counts," Zunino said. "I have to stay one pitch ahead. I'm just talking with the pitchers, laying out what we want to do. You build a foundation in the gameplan so we know what we want to do and how we want to do it."

A year removed from his junior season at Florida, the 22-year-old catcher thinks he's made strides in just about every aspect of his game. Jesus Montero and Kelly Shoppach are holding things down behind the plate in Seattle right now, and Zunino will probably get as much time as necessary to hone his craft at Triple-A.

"You get to pro ball and you're playing every single day, you learn a lot about yourself," he said. "That's the biggest thing, so when things start going bad, you can find your pitches and try to stay in there. I've matured as a player and in my outlook on the game."

Jake Seiner is a contributor to MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Jake_Seiner. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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