Mariners manger Eric Wedge issued one his periodic assurances that his team’s hitting will come around — and this time he really means it. The Mariners currently rank 14th among 15 American League teams with a .219 average. They are also 14th in slugging (.365) and 13th in on-base percentage (.285).
“I tell you, like I’ve said before, spring training is spring training, I get that,” Wedge said. “As baseball people, you look at swings, you look at contact, you look at what they’re hitting and how they’re hitting. We have guys here that are going to be able to transfer that over to the regular season. It just hasn’t happened yet. For whatever reason. Everybody’s different.
“In year’s past, I’d have to sit here and pick my words carefully, and try to fool you guys a little bit, and give you a nugget here and there. But this year I can honestly look you in the eye and tell you, I really do believe we’re going to be a pretty good offensive ballclub. I do. That’s just a lot of experience, and believing what I see. We’re off to a little bit of slow start, but I think that will fix itself sooner than later.”
One of the players the Mariners need to fix themselves is catcher Jesus Montero, who is back in the lineup tonight. Montero is hitting .211 with just one extra-base hit, and has struggled defensively as well. Kelly Shoppach had started four of the previous six games at catcher, and Wedge admitted there has been a “a little bit” of a change in the game plan regarding the division of playing time between the two. Shoppach is hitting .389 (7-for-18).
“We’re going to mix and match with that for awhile,” he said. “Hopefully, keep Shop going, but also help to get Jesus going. What I wanted to do was play him (Montero) a little more early on, and see where it goes from there. Also, the physical and mental demands, I’ve talked to you about all along, I have to be aware of. We pushed him a little bit early. We’re backing off a little bit now, and let’s see where it goes.”
Last year, Montero could serve as the designated hitter when he wasn’t catching, but this year the position is manned by Kendrys Morales.
“That’s where we are as a team,” Wedge said. “We’re a better club now, and we have more weapons now. So those DH at-bats just aren’t there. We’ll have to see.”
Meanwhile, the Mariners believe Michael Saunders (sprained AC joint in his right shoulder) will be able to come off the disabled list when he is eligible on April 26. Saunders took some swings today and had what the manager termed a good work day.
“We’re hopeful,” Wedge said. “The way he’s progressing, he’s on the path.”
Stephen Pryor, the Mariners’ latest addition to the DL (tear in right latissimus dorsi muscle) was wearing a sling today. He said it is a precaution while he rests his arm before beginning rehab.
“We’re going to be patient for the first week or two, let it heal up,” Pryor said. “That’s all we can do.”
Pryor, who didn’t give up a run in seven outings this season, was frustrated by the injury.
“You definitely don’t want to be on the DL ever, but especially right now,” he said. “That’s probably the best I’ve ever pitched in my life, coming into the season. It is frustrating, but I know I’ll get back to that point again.”