Brendan Ryan may be outstanding with the glove. But there’s a breaking point you still have to stay above with the bat in order to keep being sent back out there every day. And Ryan likely reached it last night with the bases loaded and one out in the fifth inning, when he looked lost in a strikeout against Hiroki Kuroda.
Mariners manager Eric Wedge had seen enough. Ryan is on the bench today and Munenori Kawasaki is in at shortstop.
“He needs a day,” Wedge said of Ryan. “I need a day.”
Ryan is hitting just .149 with a .267 on-base-percentage. Wedge said there’s a minimal batting average Ryan has to be at if he wants to remain a regular, but for him, that point hasn’t arrived yet. Arrived to the degree where Wedge is looking at the numbers. For him, it’s more about the types of at-bats right now, which will help dictate whether Ryan can ever get to the numbers a major league shortstop realistically needs to be at no matter how good he is defensively.
Wedge wouldn’t give a magic number, though he conceeded it did have to be above the Mendoza Line of .200 when I asked him that specific question. But he did have this to say.
“He should be better that that,” Wedge said. “Unless he’s just totally swiming in his own brain up there and making it more difficult for himself. And that’s exactly what he’s doing right now.”
In the at-bat last night, Wedge said that Ryan “has got to be able to defend himself at home plate” and did not see him do that.
“He’s trying to spread out, trying to see the ball and he’s just not seeing the ball,” Wedge said. “He’s pulling off and not putting himself in a good position to cover the plate. He knows all this.
“He’s not 25 years old, he’s 30 years old,” Wedge added. “It’s time for him to figure out what he needs to do to be successful. I can’t be any more honest than that.”
Wedge said Ryan will sit out today and then he’ll decide late what happens tomorrow. He’s been trying to give Ryan every opportunity at the No. 2 hole, largely because his options are limited with Chone Figgins in a reduced role and Franklin Gutierrez hurt. It’s gotten to the point, he added, that he may just have to run a bunch of left-handed bats out there all in a row up-top and take his chances. He’s doing that today, 1-through-3 in the order.
But Wedge knows as well as anyone that the team can’t keep sending a .149-hitting black hole out there every single day if his bat looks lost.
Speaking of black holes, Wedge was encouraged by the first two singles produced last night by Justin Smoak. He saw a better “swing plane” out of him from both sides of the plate in batting practice, but more specifically, the left side.
And it carried over into the game.
Jesus Montero will indeed catch Kevin Millwood again again tomorrow after their communication-plagued outing last Tuesday. The Mariners had to give this one some thought, but eventually the common sense of not starting John Jaso behind the plate against lefty Andy Pettitte eventually won out.
Wedge said there have been plenty of discussions about what went on last Tuesday, especially between Millwood and Montero.
“It’s as simple as a young catcher learning to work with a veteran pitcher, call a game, get a feel for all of those things that nobody will ever see,” Wedge said. “Just the intangibles of catching, which are so important. Arguably as important as anything.”
Despite some solid hitting for Montero so far, his catching remains a work in progress. The team has been easing him in there, avoiding multiple games in a row. But he remains raw in a lot of the intangibles of catching, which the team, again, is working with him on behind the scenes.
“Jesus needs to call what he feels like he needs to call and work with Kevin throughout the process,” Wedge said. “He’s not just going to be a robot back there. He’s got to learn to call his own game. With the according pitcher. That’s just the way it has to be.”
Wedge added: “I could sit here and talk to you for 24 hours on this and you still wouldn’t understand. It’s just, when you get back there, with the flow of the game, it’s a combination of what you’re seeing, what you’re feeling, the pitcher on the mound, the situation. It’s just too deep to go into. There are just so many variables involved. Hence, why most people will never understand in a thousand years why it’s so hard to be a major league starting catcher.”
Wedge said that for him, hitting will always remain “a distant second” in the catching equation. He noted that he was asked about catching in a radio interview yesterday by somebody who had also spoken with Yankees manager Joe Girardi — a former catcher who teamed with Wedge in Colorado.
Wedge paraphrased Girardi’s quotes and said he agreed completely.
“It’s hard to understand how any catcher hits,” Wedge said. “Because there’s so much going on behind home plate. He said it better than that. I don’t know what the actual quote was…because there’s just so much responsibility, so much thought process.”
2B Dustin Ackley
C John Jaso
DH Jesus Montero
3B Kyle Seager
LF Mike Carp
1B Justin Smoak
CF Michael Saunders
SS Munenori Kawasaki
RHP Hector Noesi
DH Derek Jeter
CF Curtis Granderson
3B Alex Rodriguez
2B Robinson Cano
1B Mark Teixeira
RF Nick Swisher
LF Raul Ibanez
C Russell Martin
SS Jayson Nix
RHP Phil Hughes