With Miguel Olivo’s injury, the Mariners’ catching corps is down to Jesus Montero and John Jaso. And considering that Montero is still going to see a lot of time at designated hitter, and is also a candidate to be removed for a pinch-runner late in games, manager Eric Wedge feels compelled to identify an emergency third catcher.
Brendan Ryan lobbied for the job (“He said he caught in high school and could back there right now and do it,” Wedge said. “He’s in my brain a little bit. Said he’s looking forward to calling a game. Now that’s scary”) but the manager settled on reserve infielder Munenori Kawasaki.
“He’s the first guy that came to mind,” Wedge said. “I guess that covers about everything. He has good hands, he’s a good athlete. He’s more than willing and able to do anything.”
Kawasaki had a short tutorial Wednesday with third-base coach Jeff Datz, who is the team’s catching instructor.
“Datzy said he did fine,” Wedge reported. “They didn’t do much. Of course, Muni said he’s ready to go. Datzy said, ‘I’m throwing 40. They throw 90.’ ”
Before batting practice, Kawasaki could be seen catching Ichiro, who likes to throw like a pitcher during warmups. He was throwing a lot harder than 40.
“That’s a little different story,” laughed Wedge, who added: “If I’m going to DH Montero, and if I’m going to pinch-run for Montero, which obviously I am, we’re down to one. If something happens, not good. We’re going to continue to work through that and see if we have any other volunteers. Not that he volunteered; I volunteered him.He’s fine. He’s fine with everything. He’ll do whatever you ask him to do.”
Wedge said that Justin Smoak’s struggles at the plate forced him to drop him in the batting order All 21 of his previous starts this year had been at cleanup, but he’s batting seventh tonight, and serving as the DH.
“I still believe in Smoak,” Wedge said. “I’ve always been one of his biggest fans. I know he’s going to get it done. Right now, he’s not getting it done. We’re in the business of winning ballgames, so we had to make an adjustment. I think it’s going to help him, let him catch his breath a bit and get back on track. We’ll go from there.
“You stick with something that you believe in, to a certain point, but ultimately, we need to get more production out of the middle of our lineup. I think we’ll leave him down there for a little while, but my hope would be we can get him back to the middle of our lineup, because I think that’s where he belongs.”
Smoak is 4-for-25 (.160) on the road trip and his average has dropped to .190.
“It’s just inconsistencies from day to day, at-bat to at-bat, swing to swing,” Wedge said. “And he’s a worker. Boy, I’ll tell you, he’s a worker. He cares about what he’s supposed to care about. Everything is in place for him to do well. He just has to get it done.”
As for being the DH, Wedge said, “It’s a one day thing. Think it’s a good day to do it. I had a conversation with him earlier. It’s a good opportunity for him to just think about hitting.
Alex Liddi is at first base in Smoak’s place, and Wedge said he continues to work out in left field as well. “We’ll get him out there at some point in time.”
Wedge said that John Jaso will make his 2012 catching debut tomorrow (a day game after a night game), and Mike Carp will be in the lineup. Carp was out today because, Wedge said, he wanted to get another right-handed bat against James Shields’ changeup.
Franklin Gutierrez, rehabbing in Arizona, had a good day in his recovery from plantar fasciitis, Wedge said. “He did some short sprints and felt good, good enough to where he’s going keep moving around for a few days and see if we can get through this.”
And Miguel Olivo, who was on crutches Monday after injuring his groin, is moving around much better. He’ll be examined Friday when the team returns to Seattle.
“With regard to what we saw on the field to now, he’s doing great,” Wedge said. “He’s a quick healer. With his work ethic and his attitude, you know he’s going to get back as quick as humanly possible.”