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Daily coverage of the Mariners during the season and all year long.

April 11, 2012 at 4:19 PM

Mariners manager Eric Wedge using Jesus Montero at catcher, John Jaso at DH; says not sure how often it’ll happen

The big news today is that Jesus Montero will get his first crack at catching for the Mariners. Montero caught three games for the New York Yankees last fall, while serving as a designated hitter in 14 others.
It’s been all DH for Montero thus far this season. John Jaso gets the DH role tonight. As to when he’ll catch this season, Mariners manager Eric Wedge still isn’t sure.
“I don’t really have anything set in my mind,” Wedge said. “The last thing I want to do is define anything too early.”
As we mentioned this morning, the season is less than a week old. The Mariners have yet to play more than two games in a row without a day off. So, this is the first real opportunity to get a backup guy in there.
Montero is still learning the job of being a full-time major leaguer. Wedge was quick to mention today that there’s a wolrd of difference between being on an MLB team to finish a season — especially when it’s going nowhere fast — versus starting the year with a team coming out of spring training.
What fans don’t have a chance to see, or glean from the stats, is how Montero has essentially been following Miguel Olivo around like a shadow since spring training began. Olivo has been showing Montero what to do, where to be, how to act and what his daily routine as a catcher should be.
It’s the classic look of a grown man mentoring a little kid. Montero comes to the Mariners with a big reputation and resume, but in reality, he’s still a 22-year-old kid feeling his way. At times, he looks confident. At other times, he looks as intimidated as any other 22-year-old would be stepping into a major league clubhouse. He doesn’t talk a whole lot and makes sure not to step out of line. Much of that comes from Olivo.
“Nobody works harder than Miggy,” Wedge said. “Nobody cares more than Miggy. And he goes about his business the right way. Takes care of himself. If something needs to be said, he usually steps out and says it. I think Miggy should be a real good example for him.”
And when it comes to who is going to catch more to start a season, it really isn’t any contest. The Mariners need for Montero to get comfortable with hitting and being in the majors first before they start tacking on regular responsibilities of catching.
Up until his two singles last night, Montero was hitting .200 and not putting balls deep with authority the way he did all through spring training. Playing in the majors is a different animal, as Wedge mentioned, and it’s going to take time for Montero to find his way.

There have been calls all day long from fans both here, on other blogs and on talk radio for the Mariners to yank Olivo out of the lineup and replace him with Montero or Jaso on a more regular basis.
Again, I caution, it’s a bit too early for anything too drastic.
Now, if Olivo continues with a .250 OBP going forward, clearly that can’t happen for a guy playing six days a week and I wrote as much over the winter. The Mariners will need to give Olivo more days off to get him to be more of the hitter they want him to be.
Should the Mariners have pinch-hit for Olivo with Jaso last night with two on in the seventh inning?
No, I don’t think so. Jaso hasn’t had an at-bat all year and you want to bring him in cold off the bench against a guy like Neftali Feliz? A guy who’d shut the Mariners down all game? Not much of an upgrade there. You’re better off going with the guy who at least had some swings (and misses, yes) in there last night and had seen Feliz already and take your chances.
There are smart moves in baseball and just moves for the sake of moves. Using Jaso to pinch-hit for Olivo would have been just a move with no advantage to it.
Yes, I agree that Olivo drops too many balls and allows too many wild pitches and passed balls to get by him.
That said, he also throws runners out at a much higher rate than most catchers and that’s a big help late in close games when he isn’t letting balls get by him. Olivo saved the season opener with such a throw after a Dustin Ackley error and he threw out Ian Kinser at second last night to help keep the game close.
From what I hear, he calls a better game than either of the other two catchers on the roster.
He’s also a much better baserunner than people think, Last night, when Montero and Smoak got on at the same time, there were jokes flying about how many more hits it might take to score either of them. With Olivo, you aren’t thinking about pinch-runners late because he can actually turn on surprising speed when the team needs it. He does have to stop sliding head-on into first base, though.
Does he have to hit more? Absolutely. But you’ll remember, last season, it took him all the way until the final week of April to get going and then the power shots came in bunches. Yes, he has to put up better numbers overall, including an OBP above .300 if at all possible. But it’s too early to pull the plug on him just yet. Montero has yet to begin to hit and the team doesn’t know what it has with Jaso, especially based off his slow spring training.
So, for me, the theme of the day will be patience. This isn’t football. There will be plenty of time to replace Olivo, or to at least sit him more so he can stay fresh and get his numbers up.
But six games into the season isn’t the time. Especially when there’s no clear cut choice to replace him who has actually shown he’s any better behind the plate at all aspects of what it takes to catch — not just blocking balls in the dirt.
Believe me, it the same stuff is still happening in mid-May and the team is losing because of it, I’ll sing a different tune.
Brendan Ryan is back in there as expected tonight and belive me, he’s fired up. Probably exactly what Wedge was trying to do with him. This isn’t football, but a little football coach psychology is probably at play here. Needless to say, Ryan looks like he’s preparing to go to war tonight.
Olivo looks that way every night. Nuff said.
The lineups:
LF Chone Figgins
2B Dustin Ackley
RF Ichiro
1B Justin Smoak
3B Kyle Seager
C Jesus Montero
CF Michael Saunders
SS Brendan Ryan
DH John Jaso
RHP Kevin Millwood
DH Ian Kinsler
SS Elvis Andrus
CF Josh Hamilton
3B Adrian Beltre
2B Michael Young
RF Nelson Cruz
LF David Murphy
C Yorvit Torrealba
1B Mitch Moreland
RHP Colby Lewis

Comments | Topics: Brendan Ryan, Chone Figgins, Jesus Montero


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