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August 30, 2014 at 2:46 PM

Saturday’s pregame notes and lineups: Nationals at Mariners

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Little different lineup for the Mariners today. James Jones gets a start in right field over Endy Chavez and Chris Denorfia. Jesus Sucre gets the start catcher. Mike Zunino will start on Sunday.

“Jones has been playing on a regular basis in Triple A,” said bench coach Trent Jewett, who is filling in for manager Lloyd McClendon. “He’s part of our plan, part of our future. It’s a difficult mix when you  have three viable options out there. I just felt like it was the thing to do today to get him out there, get him competing, add his energy.”

And Denorfia?

Denorfia has been a little banged up,” Jewett said. “He’s available. But in general, his starts have come against left-handed pitchers. Today was the right time for James Jones.”

Zunino could use the day off. He’s really been struggling as of late.

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“A guy with his level of pride when you don’t have the level of success you set out to have, it’s going to be frustrating,” Jewett said “I will know he’s frustrated when he takes it behind the plate. And I haven’t seen that. I think he’s done a remarkable job of separating offense and defense and handling the pitching staff, regardless if the offense is going well or not. Is there frustration? I’m sure. But as long as it doesn’t show defensively, I think it’s a feather in his cap and he’ll figure it out offensively. With a team that’s based on pitching and defense, you can’t have your catcher taking at-bats, frustrations behind the plate. He has not done that. I think it’s a credit to him and only him. It’s a sign of things to come. He’s going to be a real good. There’s going to be good days and bad days, but Mike is pro is every regard.”

Zunino’s defense and ability to handle the staff are the reasons he’s out there every day. Offense is a bonus.

“You certainly like the potential offensively because he can change the game in a hurry,” Jewett said. “His power is something you just don’t see that often. However, you have to walk that fine line. Catching is demanding physically. There’s a reason why most big league catches begin to fade at some point late in the season, late in careers and so forth. And we want to avoid that as much as possible. He’s had a fast track in his career. He’s learned rapidly. He should be very proud what the numbers say he’s added to this pitching staff. There’s nothing tangible as far as his numbers go. But the pitching staff, their numbers speak for themselves and he’s a big reason for that.”

Keeping the offense and defense separate and not letting one affect the other isn’t easy for young players.

“It’s very difficult,” Jewett said. “I think recognition of what they’re doing to do you. I think the most tangible portion of the game to the amateur eye, whether it be friends or family, they want to talk about offense. When he gets a call from A, B or C, they want to say, ‘oh you were 2-for-4 tonight or you struck out two times tonight,’ whatever the case may be. They don’t want to talk about seven good blocks, calling a good game, throwing out a baserunner. It’s just not what people talk about.

It is the most difficult portion of it and when you don’t feel great about your offense – whether you are a catcher, a shortstop or a center fielder – it is a difficult challenge. Generally, guys at this level, they haven’t had extended struggles offensively until they’ve reached the higher ranks and then you learn to deal with it. But the first few times you go through it, it’s quite a struggle and difficult. His work ethic is tremendous. His confidence is tremendous. I think sometimes  its gets him in a little bit of trouble, but we aren’t going to take that from him. In time, he will slow things down. I think longterm we are going to find that we have one of the best catchers in all of baseball. ”

Pitching numbers

Only three Mariners’ hitters have AB vs. Stephen Strasburg

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*

Official game notes

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