Skip to main content
Advertising

Originally published July 12, 2014 at 8:30 PM | Page modified July 14, 2014 at 11:44 AM

  • Share:
           
  • Comments (0)
  • Print

Catching Felix: Mike Zunino takes us behind the plate

Catching Felix Hernandez isn’t always easy, according to Mariners catcher Mike Zunino. But it’s a lot less frustrating that trying to hit against him.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Click to see an enlarged version of the graphic.

advertising

The question is simple. But for Mike Zunino, the answer isn’t. “What’s it like to catch Felix Hernandez?”

Zunino pauses and thinks about it.

“It can be difficult,” Zunino said. “It’s hard. But I love doing it.”

For all the reasons the Mariners’ ace is tough to hit, he’s difficult to catch. Sure, Zunino knows what’s coming, but that doesn’t mean every pitch will do the same thing.

“You can’t put into words and can’t describe it to someone who maybe hasn’t played the game or even someone who has played, just how much his pitches really move,” Zunino said.

Hernandez’s four-seam fastball — the most simple of pitches — is anything but straight.

“I’m not fabricating when I say it moves four to five inches every time,” Zunino said. “It’s got natural life.”

It’s not just the fastball. It’s all of the pitches.

“Everything is so explosive, with late movement,” Zunino said. “You have to be on your toes.”

Many a Mariners catcher has been overwhelmed by Hernandez’s volatile stuff.

Zunino, who has caught every Hernandez start this season and six starts last season, said he believes repetition makes it easier.

“It takes time,” he said. “Once you get an idea of what he likes to do and what his stuff does, then it becomes easier. You learn what he likes to do and anticipate what the ball is going to do.”

Zunino’s favorite pitch is Hernandez’s changeup. There are two variations — one for a strike and a two-strike wipeout pitch that’s almost always in the dirt.

“Devastating is the only word,” Zunino said. “You see guys that think they are right on it and they miss it by a foot. I forget who it was, he swung through it two times in a row and said, ‘I can’t tell. Is that a split or a changeup?’ I looked at him, ‘I don’t even know.’ ”

It’s that good.

“I think it’s the only pitch in baseball that a hitter can sit on and still not square it up,” Zunino said.

The reactions to Hernandez’s pitches are priceless.

“When he has it going, you can sense the frustration as the game goes on,” Zunino said. “They are on their second and third at-bats and having the same results. You can just sense the frustration, whether it’s a mumble or they take extra practice swings and you see it on their face. It’s fun to see how frustrated he can make hitters.”

Want unlimited access to seattletimes.com? Subscribe now!

Also in Sports

News where, when and how you want it

Email Icon

Where in the world are Seahawks fans?

Where in the world are Seahawks fans?

Put your marker on The Seattle Times interactive map and share your fan story.

Advertising

Partner Video

Advertising


Advertising
The Seattle Times

The door is closed, but it's not locked.

Take a minute to subscribe and continue to enjoy The Seattle Times for as little as 99 cents a week.

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►
The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription upgrade.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. For unlimited seattletimes.com access, please upgrade your digital subscription.

Call customer service at 1.800.542.0820 for assistance with your upgrade or questions about your subscriber status.

The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. Subscribe now for unlimited access!

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Activate Subscriber Account ►