Those wheels you hear rolling down the road belong to the bandwagon of Mike Zunino.
They were stuck in the mud back in April and much of May, but since May 24, those wheels, once constructed of wooden spokes, have evolved into all terrain tires and they no longer hobble along supporting a covered wagon. That wagon has become a full blown monster truck, fueled by home plate horsepower.
Zunino has rolled since being called back up, hitting .338, with nine home runs and 28 RBI. No Mariners catcher has ever driven in 26 runs in one month, and by the time June ends, that number could climb well into the 30s and well out of reach of any Mariners catcher for years to come.
Zunino deserves all the credit for taking advantage of his time in Tacoma. He was forced to check his ego on Interstate 5 in an attempt to finally figure out how to hit major league pitching. He overhauled his approach in the box, changed his stance and turned things around.
But with all this praise comes the question: how long will it last? We've seen a few of Zunino's teammates catch fire for one month this season, only to smolder before the first day of summer.
It's unrealistic to think Zunino can sustain this kind of success the rest of the season. He raised his batting average from .167 to .257. Looking ahead, if Zunino hovers between .225 and .250, that's all the Mariners need, especially with his home run power.
How much of Zunino's struggles have been his fault? This is a guy who was rushed to the big leagues. The Mariners drafted him third overall in 2012. One year later he made his major league debut and it's been an up and down ride ever since.
Unfortunately for the Mariners, they needed to fast track Zunino in an effort to finally fill the black hole behind home plate.
We've seen plenty of flashes from Mike Z. In a way, his season has been a microcosm of what's happening with the entire club. A hot streak followed by a cold stretch. Rinse and repeat.
And how can you not pull for Zunino? He's one of the most likeable guys this franchise has ever had. But likeable or not, he has to be productive, not only for this season, but seasons ahead.
The Mariners will eventually have to make a decision on whether to go all in on their catcher. Zunino is eligible for salary arbitration after this season. If he can keep up this level of production, he'll likely be due a sizeable raise, which means decision time for the Mariners.
Is this a player they want to hitch their wagon to? Sure, as long as that wagon has all terrain tires.
© 2017 KING-TV