By Nick Patterson Herald Writer
EVERETT — Mike Zunino was so eager to get his professional baseball career started that he decided to cut his ceremonial tour short.
Zunino, the Seattle Mariners’ first-round pick in this year’s amateur draft and the newest member of the Everett AquaSox, skipped the Major League Baseball All-Star Game so he get things rolling in earnest as soon as possible.
“I’m just ready to go,” Zunino said Wednesday prior to Everett’s game against the Tri-City Dust Devils. “It’s nice to finally be here, meet the guys and get everything going.”
Zunino, a catcher selected third overall out of the University of Florida, has been on a whirlwind tour since signing with the Mariners last week. First came his introduction at Safeco Field in Seattle July 3. Then it was off to Secaucus, N.J., last Friday for the announcement of the winner of the Golden Spikes Award, which he won. Finally, it was a trip to Kansas City, Missouri, for the All-Star Game festivities. Zunino stayed for Monday’s Home Run Derby, but left before the actual game Tuesday, arriving in Everett on Tuesday night.
“I was supposed to (attend the All-Star Game), but I flew out here early so I could get going on this homestand,” Zunino said. “It’s been a few weeks, so I’m ready to go.”
It didn’t take long for Sox manager Rob Mummau to get a sense of Zunino’s eagerness to get started.
“He got here (Tuesday) night and the first thing he did was send me a text that said, ‘Hey, can I get some swings in the cage?’” Mummau said. “So I brought him over here, got some swings on the tee. He’s just champing at the bit to get going.
“No doubt he’s eager,” Mummau added. “That’s the type of kid he is, we knew that going in. He’s got a great make-up and is a terrific kid.”
Despite Zunino’s eagerness, he is being eased into things with the Sox because he hasn’t played a game since Florida’s season ended June 18 at the College World Series. Zunino went through workouts with Everett on Wednesday, doing some early work with the catchers and participating in infield/outfield drills before taking his first batting practice. He hit one ball out during BP.
However, Zunino was not in the starting lineup, despite the presence of Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik and director of amateur scouting Tom McNamara at Everett Memorial Stadium.
“I’m just dusting the cobwebs off,” Zunino said. “But I feel good, I feel fresh. Maybe a couple days of batting practice and a few days of throwing and I think I’ll be back into it.”
Mummau said he didn’t know when Zunino would make his debut, but suggested it might be Friday. Mummau also suggested Zunino’s debut may come as the designated hitter rather than behind the plate.
“It’ll be sometime later in the week,” Mummau said. “It won’t be (Wednesday), it probably won’t be (today), but possibly Friday.”
Mummau also said he did not know how long Zunino would remain with the Sox. Historically, Seattle’s true first-round draft picks who were assigned directly to Everett have had short stays. The longest was when Jeff Clement, also a catcher who was selected third overall, began his professional career by playing four games with the Sox in 2005.
But no matter how long he stays in Everett, Zunino is ready to get his pro career in gear.
“A few weeks off is the longest I’ve taken without playing in a few years,” Zunino said. “I’m just ready to get going and help the team out.”
Jones, Dennis come home
Former Snohomish High School star Derek Jones returned to Snohomish County as a member of the Dust Devils.
Jones was the Colorado Rockies’ eighth-round pick in this year’s draft out of Washington State University. Going into Wednesday’s game Jones was batting .167 in 22 games.
Also on Tri-City’s roster is Bothell High School grad Chris Dennis. Dennis, a 34th-round pick by Colorado in the 2011 draft out of the University of Portland, is in his second stint with Tri-City. The right-handed pitcher is 2-1 with a 2.87 ERA in seven relief appearances.