The Seattle Mariners appear to be confident that Mike Zunino is ready to be their everyday catcher. Whether or not the youngster is up to the challenge is yet to be seen.
Look at what has unfolded over the last few weeks. Jesus Montero gets demoted. Jesus Sucre gets hurt. Brandon Bantz arrives, but is soon designated for assignment.
And then...welcome to the show, Mike Zunino!
Some of these circumstances just happened, while others were obviously orchestrated. But wait, the youngster is going to share time with Kelly Shoppach, right? The rookie is going to back up the veteran, correct?
Kelly Shoppach has been designated for assignment, according to ESPN, and the Mariners have signed Henry Blanco. Now, the Mariners have essentially traded one poor-hitting veteran catcher for another.
That may be the point.
The path has clearly been for Mike Zunino to become the man, the myth and the legend. Now is the time for the Mariners to see whether Zunino is really ready for the big leagues.
Obviously, Zunino does not have to turn into an immediate All-Star from the very first day. If that did happen, fans wouldn’t exactly complain. Zunino may struggle, have setbacks or ultimately need to be sent back down to Tacoma for some extra seasoning.
Perhaps Jesus Montero may eventually return.
However, the decisions of late suggest that management believes that Zunino is ready. Or, it may be that Seattle is desperate for anyone to come in and give this offense an extra boost.
Is Zunino actually ready? He didn’t exactly hit for a high average at Tacoma, as Zunino compiled a .238 average in 47 games. Zunino did hit 11 home runs and drive in 43 RBI in 185 at-bats.
Zunino is going to be scrutinized heavily over the next couple of weeks. In fact, every at-bat and play may be critiqued until Zunino establishes himself or proves to be ineffective. As noted by Geoff Baker of The Seattle Times during a game against the A's on June 14:
Of course, with every 0-for-4 game there will be fans who suggest that Zunino is not ready and that Seattle rushed one of their top prospects. We shall see.
The path has been cleared. It is time for the Mike Zunino era to begin. At least, fans hope that there will actually be an era.