Mariners' Zunino to see increased workload behind plate

Catcher expected to play 10-15 more games

Mariners' Zunino to see increased workload behind plate

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Third-year Mariners backstop Mike Zunino is expected to catch an estimated 10 to 15 more games this season, and the club is confident he is up to the task.

Last season, Zunino caught 131 games in his second full year in the big leagues. It's quite a leap when one considers he caught 52 games as a rookie in 2013.

On offense, Zunino hit .199 with 22 home runs and 60 RBIs last season. He struck out 158 times.

"If we can get him to the 145-[game] range, 140-145, we should be good to go for the entire season," Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said. "We probably overplayed him a little bit too much last year out of necessity. We had a very tough staff to catch. We didn't have [Jesus] Sucre at the beginning."

Sucre, who caught 21 games last season, is a defensive-mind catcher competing for the backup job. Veteran John Baker and prospect John Hicks, who has shown the ability to hit and play defense, also provide depth at the position.

John Buck and Humberto Quintero also saw action behind the plate for the Mariners last season.

Jesse Sanchez is a national reporter for Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.