Mariners look forward to catching break, host A's (Jul 09, 2017)

BY AP • July 9, 2017

SEATTLE -- It would be hard to imagine any position players who look forward to the All-Star break more than catchers.

"If you're beat up, yeah," said Oakland Athletics manager Bob Melvin, a former catcher. "It's the most taxing position."

Added Seattle catcher Mike Zunino: "It's nice to get off your feet and get a chance to recharge."

It would seem Zunino could use a break as the Mariners host the Athletics on Sunday in their final game before the break.

After hitting .304 with 10 home runs and 31 RBIs in June, a month the Mariners' baseball information staff renamed "Junino," he has cooled off. He's in an 0-for-13 slump, bringing to mind the Zunino who was sent to Triple-A Tacoma for nearly a month earlier this season to work on his swing.

"He's going back into some of his old habits," said Mariners manager Scott Servais, another former catcher. "You're not going to get 30 RBIs every month. He's lost a little feel from where he was earlier. He's a taller guy (6 feet 2) with a leg kick. He's missing some pitches he was hitting. It's timing.

"A couple of days off would really help him. He's played a lot. We ran him into the ground (in June) because he was playing so well."

In contrast, there's Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell. Since being recalled from Triple-A Nashville on June 22, the rookie is hitting .349.

"Maxwell wants to play," Melvin said.

So what it really comes down to is if a catcher is hot, they want to keep going. If they're not ...

"There have been times you've got to find a way to make it last and other times you don't want to see a ball or bat," Zunino said of the All-Star break.

Said Athletics broadcaster Ray Fosse, a former All-Star catcher: "I had a 23-game hitting streak one year and the last thing I wanted was an off day. When you come to spring training, that's the best you'll feel all year. It's all downhill after that.

"Maxwell has taken some shots off his head and body. He's like a magnet (for the ball)."

With a day game Sunday following a night game in which they both started, Zunino and Maxwell might get a chance to extend their breaks by a day.

The A's will send rookie right-hander Daniel Gossett (1-3, 6.23 ERA) to the mound. He will be facing the Mariners for the first time.

In his last start, at home Tuesday against the Chicago White Sox, Gossett allowed five runs on nine hits in five innings but didn't factor in the decision as the A's won 7-6.

Gossett has walked one batter or fewer in each of his five starts, but has allowed seven home runs in 26 innings.

Veteran right-hander Felix Hernandez (3-3, 5.04 ERA) is scheduled to start for Seattle. He'll be making his 45th career start versus the Athletics, against whom he has a 23-9 record and a 2.68 ERA.

Hernandez lost his last start, Tuesday against Kansas City, allowing six runs (five earned) on six hits in six innings. He recorded his 2,300th career strikeout in that game, becoming the 50th pitcher in major league history to reach the milestone.

Hernandez was on the disabled list from April 26-June 22 with inflammation in his right shoulder. In three starts since returning from the DL, Hernandez is 1-1 with a 5.50 ERA.



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