Zunino rocks return to Majors with 2 homers

Zunino rocks return to Majors with 2 homers

SEATTLE -- In catcher Mike Zunino's first at-bat back in the Major Leagues, he hit a two-run home run.

With a runner on second and two strikes, Zunino was just trying to put the ball in play. But he did one better.

"Luckily he left a slider over the middle third of the plate and I was able to recognize and just try to put the barrel on it," Zunino said.

Zunino went 2-for-4 on Saturday with two home runs, three RBIs and a walk to help lead the Mariners' 12-6 rout of the Orioles at Safeco Field.

After starting for the Mariners last year and hitting .174, Zunino spent the beginning of this season in Triple-A Tacoma trying to improve at the plate. Manager Scott Servais said he had heard good things from Zunino's coaches -- he was taking better at-bats, for one. So, when backup catcher Steve Clevenger went to the 15-day disabled list with a fractured hand, Zunino came up.

"It's not easy to go back to the Minor Leagues and work on some things and have a good attitude about it," Servais said. "So I'm happy for him. And a big night, no doubt. Wasn't expecting two home runs, but we'll take it."

Zunino made an impression from the very first inning by catching Manny Machado attempting to steal. Zunino then homered in the second inning and the sixth.

Zunino nails Machado at second

But perhaps what was most emblematic of the 25-year-old's progress was that after all that, he drew a walk in the eighth.

Zunino fouled off the first pitch, an 83 mph slider. That was the one he wanted, he said. But then he was patient. He watched four straight balls, not biting at the chance to prove his power again. He played smart.

"Between the two-strike slider and that at-bat there, that was probably the positive of the night," Zunino said.

Maddie Lee is a reporter for MLB.com based in Seattle. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.