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Mariners won't rush Zunino to major leagues

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By John Boyle
Herald Writer
Published:
With Jesus Sucre sidelined temporarily with a wrist injury, the Mariners brought up a catcher from Class AAA Tacoma.
No, not that one.
While Mike Zunino is the minor league catcher fans can't wait to see in a Mariners uniform, it was Brandon Bantz, not Zunino, who joined the Mariners on Wednesday.
Bantz becomes the second Tacoma backup catcher after Sucre to be called up in recent weeks. Bantz was in Class AA until being moved up just two weeks ago after Sucre was moved up to Seattle, making this a rather unlikely major-league debut. So why if the Mariners need help at catcher are they calling up multiple AAA backups ahead of Zunino?
Well, there are a couple of reasons. For starters, Sucre isn't expected to be out long, so whomever the Mariners called up was coming here to be a backup to Kelly Shoppach and wasn't likely to be around long. Secondly, and more importantly, when a team has a prospect as valuable as Zunino, it isn't going to rush that player's progress because of a need at the major-league level.
"We're hoping it's a three- or four-day deal, so that's good news," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. "... It's a temporary move, and good for (Bantz), he's a big leaguer. We don't want to disrupt anybody else down there right now."
Zunino, the No. 3 pick in last year's draft, enjoyed considerable success last summer with the Everett AquaSox and the Jackson Generals, and started off this season in Tacoma at a torrid pace. He has cooled off since that hot start, however, and is currently hitting just .228 (though 24 extra base hits give Zunino a very solid .515 slugging percentage).
And because the Mariners see Zunino as such a big part of their future, they'll only bring him up when they believe he's ready, not because an injury dictates it.
"That's exactly right," Wedge said when posed the question of not rushing Zunino because of a need at the big-league level.
To make room for Bantz, the Mariners sent infielder Carlos Triunfel back to Tacoma. Triunfel was recently called up to replace Robert Andino, but started just three games, in part because of the hot hitting by fellow recent call-up Nick Franklin.
To clear a spot on the 40 man roster for Bantz, the Mariners placed outfielder Franklin Gutierrez on the 60-day disabled list retroactive to April 23, which means Gutierrez is eligible to come off the DL on June 22.
Herald Writer John Boyle: jboyle@heraldnet.com.
Story tags » Mariners

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