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March 3, 2013 at 8:49 AM

Zunino happy to get first hit, which happened to be home run

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Mike Zunino was hitless in seven spring at-bats when he stepped up to the plate in the third inning on Saturday to face the Dodgers’ Chris Capuano. When his towering fly ball drifted over the fence in left, he was just happy to finally break his 0-fer.

“I would have taken any hit,’’ he said. “ I was feeling good at the plate, and I had some good at-bats. It was nice to have my first hit, and to have a home run was even better. I knew I hit it well. I was hoping. It’s nice obviously to see it go over and have that room to breathe a little bit.”

Sure enough, Zunino followed with a single his next time up.

“Yeah, once the first one falls, it usually falls into place from there,’’ he said. “I just try to keep having good approaches at the plate, and I knew eventually it would turn around.”

Zunino had hit a few balls hard with no results, but said he wasn’t getting frustrated as he awaited his first hit.

“It’s still so early,’’ he said. “I’m trying to get as much information as I can from pitchers and trying to get as many at-bats and see as many pitches as I can. It’s still so early that to get frustrated wouldn’t help me any.”

Zunino, the Mariners’ top draft pick last year – No. 3 overall – is back in the lineup today at designated hitter when the Mariners play the Rangers in Surprise. He’s almost certainly slated for the minor leagues to start the season but is soaking up as much knowledge as he can in his first major-league camp.

“From our guys, I’m just trying to learn what they like to do in certain counts, what’s their sort of go-to stuff,’’ he said. “At the plate, I’m just trying to see pitches. There’s no machine that can simulate breaking balls and fastballs like actual pitchers. Just to gather that information at the plate and catching has been a big help so far.”

Zunino found out this week he was one of 15 semifinalists for the Sullivan Award, given to the top amateur athlete in the U.S in 2012. Other nominees include basketball star Brittney Griner, swimmer Missy Franklin and gymnast Gabrielle Douglas.

“It’s awesome,’’ he said. “It’s a great honor and obviously a ton of great athletes on there. Just to be nominated for that has been an extreme honor.”

 

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