Mariners Thrilled With 'Safe Pick' Zunino

SEATTLE—The Mariners heard it from some places that they made the ``safe'' pick last year after they took Danny Hultzen with the second pick in the draft.

They are hearing it again by selecting Florida catcher Mike Zunino, last year's SEC player of the year , with the third overall pick.

Given how quickly the lefthanded Hultzen has assumed a position of dominance with Double-A Jackson, Mariners scouting director Tom McNamara can live with the "safe" critique.

"I heard that last year about Danny Hultzen, and I can't control that,'' McNamara said moments after the club took the 21-year-old who hit .316 with 18 homers as the Gators headng to the NCAA Super Regionals. "I don't like to compare players, but I look at the impact that Dan Wilson had on the Mariner pitching staff all those years. And Mike is that kind of kid. He'll play hard; he'll play beat-up. He's just a good player."

Zunino, whose father, Greg, is a scout for the Reds, has 46 homers and a.325 career batting average in three years at Florida after opting against signing with the Athletics after they drafted him in the 30th round of the 2009 draft out of Mariner High in Coral Gables, Fla.

"I think I've matured so much since high school," Zunino said. "I've learned there's more to the game than hitting, catching and throwing. I've learned focus. I think I've got my priorities in the right line."

Zunino, who was at home with his family, his fiance and a few friends when he got the word that he was Seattle bound, said there was "no inclination" on his part that he would go as high as third in the draft.

"I had no idea,'' he said. "I'm extremely honored."

McNamara and three of his area scouts had dinner at the Zunino family home in Florida before the college season started. McNamara remembered fondly that Mike wanted to talk baseball, how to pitch to hitters and breaking down various situations.

"It was just the two of us over in the corner talking baseball," McNamara said.

That pursuit of baseball-specific knowledge is the kind of thing, McNamara said, that is at the core of being a leader.

And it's a leader that Zunino wants to be.

"I just like to be in command as much as I can be," he said, "whether it's the pitching staff or the defense. And that's what I'm looking forward to doing."

• Righthander Stephen Pryor, who started the season at Double-A Jackson then pitched 12 scoreless innings after a promotion to Triple-A Tacoma, got the call to the big leagues on June 1.

• Tacoma second baseman Luis Rodriguez had a 30-game streak of reaching base at least once come to an end in early June. The veteran was hitting .316/.389/.411 for the season.