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Originally published July 23, 2014 at 7:12 PM | Page modified July 23, 2014 at 8:58 PM

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Mariners manager says more experience will make Mike Zunino that much better

In time, manager Lloyd McClendon said, Mariners catcher Mike Zunino will drive in the runner from third base more often than not.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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You obviously have not been watching any of the games if you want to send Zunino down. The guy calls a great game,... MORE
Anyone watching the Mariners understands that the kid is a pretty good defensive catcher right now and will get better.... MORE
Let him get the experience down in Tacoma. We are in a post season race for the WC. Twelve years and couting MORE

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Tuesday, one of the biggest moments from the Mariners’ loss came in the fifth inning. Dustin Ackley drove in Willie Bloomquist with a double and advanced to third on an error.

That brought catcher Mike Zunino to the plate with one out and the Mariners trailing 2-1 in their eventual 3-1 loss to the Mets. Zunino worked the count to 3-0, but he ended up popping out to shallow left field. Ackley couldn’t score on the play and remained stranded when Endy Chavez grounded out to end the inning.

When asked about Zunino’s approach during that pivotal at-bat, Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon used it as an opportunity to defend his young catcher.

“He was trying,” McClendon said. “I keep reminding everybody this: Zunino’s just a puppy. He’ll get better with those kinds of things. He’s got a total of 600 at-bats in his professional career.

“I remember having a conversation with Magglio Ordonez one day in Detroit. I said, ‘You come right into the big leagues, and you hit well.’ He said, ‘I had 5,000 at-bats before I got to the big leagues.’ Zunino has 600. We all forget that. Everyone thinks it’s easy. It’s not easy. It’s not that easy to drive in runs. This guy is learning on the job. He’ll get better at that stuff.

“The only way to get better is to fail, and unfortunately it hurts sometimes when you fail.”

McClendon added, “It’s no fault of his, but he had to come to the big leagues because they didn’t have anybody else. And he’s pretty good at his craft. He’s just got to go out and get his experience. And sometimes it’s going to look ugly, but hell, I’ve seen veteran guys that can’t get them in from third. He’ll be OK.”

Paxton bounces back

The way James Paxton pitched in his rehab start Tuesday for Class AAA Tacoma was important. But just as important, if not more so, for his prospects of returning to the Mariners was how he felt the next day.

“No pain or anything,” Paxton said before the game Wednesday.

Paxton said he didn’t hold anything back, like he had in some of his previous rehab assignments. He will pitch again Sunday for Tacoma, but the Mariners haven’t decided what he will do after that. McClendon said Paxton would make at least one more rehab start for Tacoma, but he wasn’t sure if Paxton would need another one after that or if he’d be available for the big-league club.

For his part, Paxton said he needed at least one more rehab start.

“There’s a few things I need to iron out,” he said, “and I definitely need to be executing pitches a little better to pitch in the big leagues again.”

In his second rehab start Tuesday, Paxton went three innings, gave up three hits, two home runs and two earned runs. He also retired eight of the final nine batters he faced once he settled into a groove.

Note

• The Mariners will skip their fifth starter next week because of an off day Monday. That means Hisashi Iwakuma will start Tuesday.

Jayson Jenks: 206-464-8277 or jjenks@seattletimes.com

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