SEATTLE -- One of the reasons the Mariners were able to trade away catcher John Jaso in the three-team offseason deal to get slugger Michael Morse came up again in conversation during Tuesday's pregame chat with Seattle manager Eric Wedge.
That reason has a name and it's Mike Zunino.
Zunino, whom the team selected with the third overall pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, turned 22 on March 25 and began the season in Triple-A Tacoma after hitting a combined .360 with 13 home runs and 43 RBIs in 44 games split between short-season Everett and Double-A Jackson. Zunino was with the Mariners for a good deal of spring camp and hasn't let up in Tacoma.
Entering Tuesday's action, Zunino led the Minor Leagues in RBIs and extra-base hits, and that was before he unleashed a grand slam Tuesday night, his fourth homer in five games, raising his RBI total to 16.
The Mariners are still giving Jesus Montero a good look behind the plate and also have veteran backup Kelly Shoppach on the 25-man roster, so the team is in no hurry to start Zunino's Major League career, but they like what they're hearing.
"He's a good player," Wedge said. "All the reports have been good. I can't really say anything more than that. He's an all-around player, especially for the position he's in. Obviously, we really gave him a lot of exposure this spring. He had a chance to play a long time with us, and it was good for him and good for us to see."
It was brought up to Wedge that Zunino hasn't yet shown any growing pains in pro baseball.
"At some point in time it'll happen, but who knows when and where," Wedge said. "But when it does, he'll make the adjustment and keep moving. But he's been pretty impressive in his brief pro career. No doubt about it."
Capps dazzling with new off-speed pitch
SEATTLE -- Last year, reliever Carter Capps arrived on the scene from Double-A, was promoted to the big league club in early August, and opened eyes with a high-90s fastball that occasionally hit 100 mph. He also couldn't get his curveball over the plate often enough and ended up walking 11 batters (while striking out 28) in 25 innings and pitched to a 3.96 ERA.
This year, it's been a different story. Capps, 22, hasn't been throwing his overhand curve much. In addition to a changeup that he can spot on occasion, Capps is throwing a low-80s hybrid slider/cutter from a similar three-quarter arm slot as his fastball. And wow, is it working.
On Monday night, Capps struck out two Astros in his 1 1/3 innings, both on that pitch. Overall this year, he has seven punchouts and only one walk in 4 1/3 innings.
"Last year, I'd throw eight or nine fastballs in a row, then I'd throw a curve, I'd struggle with it, and then I'd throw another eight or nine fastballs," Capps said. "But this pitch is working better. It's pretty effective throwing out of the same window [as the fastball]."
Capps said he's going to try to throw "about 40 percent" off-speed pitches this year. He also said he's been gaining confidence in the pitch the more he's thrown it.
Mariners closer Tom Wilhelmsen has noticed, too.
"When you have 100 [mph] and a slide-piece like that, you put yourself in a position to open some eyes," Wilhelmsen said.
Wedge using 'healthy' mix of lineups early
SEATTLE -- Mariners manager Eric Wedge was asked about the fact that Tuesday night's lineup was his team's ninth different look in as many games in the 2013 season, and he shrugged.
"It's baseball," Wedge said. "You look around the league, and it's not just us. I think people get too caught up, and it's not 1975 anymore. You're not going to have the same nine guys out there every day, and they're not going to stay with the same team for 10 years. It just doesn't work that way.
"The flip side of that is that it's a healthy thing, because we've got 13 guys that we feel like can go out there and play and play regularly if they need to. And it'll definitely help us later in the year, but it's going to help us even here early on as they continue to play and stay fresh. And early on you've got to be careful. You come out of Spring Training where you've got them playing two in a row, three tops, and then you break and you're playing 14 in a row. You've got to be careful with all that, too."
• The Mariners are the only team in the Majors that has yet to enjoy an off-day. The Mariners' first off-day will not be until Monday, a string of 14 games to open the season without a day of rest.
• Shortstop Brendan Ryan has 90 defensive runs saved since 2009 (511 games), leading all shortstops.
• Entering Tuesday, Kendrys Morales was batting .500 (8-for-16) with three doubles, one home run and five RBIs over his past four games. After opening the season 1-for-12, Morales had raised his average to .321 with the four-game hitting streak.