Hours after firing general manager Jack Zduriencik the Mariners have demoted one of his worst draft picks, catcher Mike Zunino, to Triple-A.
It’s an unorthodox move, to say the least, because Zunino has been the Mariners’ starting catcher for the past two-and-a-half seasons and demoting him to Triple-A at a time when the minor-league season is essentially already over seems more punitive than anything else. After all, if the Mariners simply waited three days their roster would have expanded on September 1 and it’s not as if there’s any real time for Zunino to get work in at Triple-A.
With that said, he certainly earned the demotion had it come in, say, June or July. Zunino has hit .174 this season and .193 for his career, showing zero ability to control the strike zone with 339 strikeouts and 54 walks in 295 games. He has 20-homer power, but it’s added up to a .605 OPS for the No. 3 overall pick in the 2012 draft.
To replace Zunino on the roster the Mariners called up John Hicks, a 26-year-old career minor leaguer hitting .245 with six homers and a .645 OPS in 83 games at Triple-A. He’s a non-prospect having a poor season, which adds to the oddity of the Zunino demotion.
The Mariners turned the 11th triple play in franchise history on Sunday against the Blue Jays in a most unconventional way. Starter Taijuan Walker began the inning by issuing a walk to Ezequiel Carrera and allowing a single to Kevin Pillar, putting runners on the corners with nobody out.
On a 1-2 count, Ryan Goins hit a grounder to first baseman Mark Trumbo, who stepped on the first base bag and tossed the ball to shortstop Brad Miller. Miller chased Pillar back towards first, then ran in as Carrera hung about halfway between third base and home. Miller lobbed to catcher Mike Zunino, who ran Carrera back to third base just as Pillar arrived at the bag. Zunino tagged both runners. Carrera was first to the bag, so technically he was safe… until he happened to stumble off of the bag for who-knows-what reason. So Zunino tagged him out, too, for the triple play.
It’s ugly and it’s embarrassing, but oh so much fun to watch.
Carrera atoned for his base running mistake by robbing Zunino of a home run in the bottom of the sixth, then smacking a solo home run in the top of the seventh inning to pad the Blue Jays’ lead to 5-3.
Look at young Astros shortstop Carlos Correa getting way up to rob Mike Zunino of a hit Saturday …
Correa, 20, is batting .314 with a .908 OPS in his first 12 games. We’re witnessing the rise of a superstar.