By Nick Patterson Herald Writer
Opponent: Eugene Emeralds
When: 7:05 p.m.
Where: PK Park, Eugene, Ore.
Radio: KRKO (1380 AM)
Probable starters: Everett right-hander Ambioris Hidalgo (1-0, 5.40 ERA) vs. Eugene right-hander Justin Hancock (0-1, 4.26)
Zunino is coming
The big news Tuesday was the announcement that Seattle Mariners first-round draft pick Mike Zunino will begin his professional career with Everett.
Zunino, a catcher out of the University of Florida who was selected third overall in June, officially signed with the Mariners Tuesday. During the press conference announcing Zunino’s signing, Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik said Zunino would be assigned to the AquaSox.
“I think this will be a very good place for him to start out,” Everett manager Rob Mummau said. “He hasn’t played in about three weeks, so we’ll get him here and ease him into it. We’ll probably get a few practices under his belt and then get him into games.”
Mummau was not able to give a specific date as to when Zunino would be joining the team, but he did say it would be sometime during the next homestand, which begins next Wednesday.
Mummau knows all about Zunino. When he’s not managing, Mummau is a member of Seattle’s amateur scouting staff, being responsible for the southeast region. So he’s seen Zunino play and knows exactly what the Sox are getting.
“He’s a great kid,” Mummau said. “I saw him play for three years in college. He’s a big, strong kid who can really catch. He can throw. He’s got a very good make-up, good leadership skills, and he had power, he’s proven that for three years in college. I think the fans will be very happy with him.”
Mummau isn’t the only one who’s familiar with Zunino. Sox shortstop Chris Taylor was Zunino’s teammate with the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox of the Cape Cod League last summer.
“He’s a very good player,” Taylor said. “He can definitely hit. It’s very obvious based on his results in college, but he’s a great hitter and overall just a great player.
“It’s definitely exciting,” Taylor added about the prospect of reuniting with Zunino. “He’s a good guy and I’m definitely looking forward to playing with somebody with that amount of talent who was drafted that high. Maybe I’ll learn a bit from him.”
When Zunino finally arrives, he might not be staying long. Three previous times the Mariners assigned their first-round pick directly to Everett — outfielder Jose Cruz Jr. in 1995, pitcher Matt Thornton in 1998 and catcher Jeff Clement in 2005. Between them they appeared in a grand total of nine games for the Sox. So will Zunino’s stint in Everett be equally short?
“Nobody knows that quite yet, we haven’t talked about that,” Mummau said. “I’m sure that will be addressed in the next couple weeks.”
Everett raced out to a big lead in the Northwest League’s West Division based largely on the strength of the team’s pitching, which posted a 2.67 ERA going into Tuesday.
However, an overlooked factor in Everett’s success has been the play of Taylor at short and Ketel Marte at second. Both are quality defenders, and they’ve already formed a strong partnership in the middle of Everett’s infield.
“They’ve been a huge factor,” Mummau said. “They’ve taken away a lot of hits. Both of them have plus range and have made some really nice plays to stop rallies. Marte has made a couple diving plays with runners in scoring position and really picked up our pitchers a lot, and Chris has made some tough plays look easy. I’m sure our pitchers appreciate that.”
The pair’s understanding helped the Sox turn 20 double plays.
“It’s gone well,” Taylor said. “(Marte) is a very young, talented player who has a lot of upside to him. He’s been solid up the middle, and I feel we’ve done a good job together.”
Nick Patterson, Herald writer