(Video courtesy of Seattle Mariners)
Add Jesus Montero to the list of Mariners’ players who are having strong springs. And also add him to the growing list of M’s with homers.
In fact, Mariners manager Eric Wedge said that Montero’s two-run homer in the third inning, his first of the spring (and 22nd by a Seattle hitter in 10 games this spring, including one by Kendrys Morales earlier in the game, his first also) was the best at-bat he’s ever seen from Montero.
Montero fell behind 0-2, then fouled off three straight pitches. He laid off a fastball up before blasting a rocket over the wall in left center on a 93-mph fastball from Texas starter Justin Grimm.
Early in camp, Wedge said he thought Montero wasn’t in quite as good shape as he had hoped. But the manager has been very pleased lately with the way he’s been handling himself both offensively and in embracing the challenges of being the every-day catcher. Montero also doubled in the game and is now hitting .500 (7-for-14) this spring.
“I felt like the last couple of games, both offensively and behind the plate catching, were considerably different,’’ Wedge said. “It’s been very noticeable to me. That’s the way he needs to play. You talk about the position he’s playing, the responsibilities and priorities that go along with that, he’s right in the middle of understanding that. He’s sticking his nose in offensively and battling through ABs.
“That at-bat he had earlier in the game is probably the best at-bat I’ve ever seen him have against a guy throwing pretty good with good stuff. He ended up winning in the end, and winning in a big way.”
Meanwhile, there’s a lot of concern for Texas pitcher Martin Perez, slated to be the Rangers’ No. 4 or 5 starter. He left the game immediately after taking a line shot from Brad Miller off his left wrist. Perez was in a lot of pain and went to the hospital for x-rays. No results yet, but there’s a lot of concern on the Rangers side.
“It’s tough to see,’’ Wedge said. “You never want to see that, and it’s always a scary thing.”
Just moments ago, the Rangers announced the results of the x-rays, and as feared, it wasn’t good. He has a f racture of the ulna bone in his left forearm. He won’t resume throwing for approximately a month, the Rangers said.
Seattle starter Joe Saunders was pleased with his scoreless two-inning stint – with the exception of a first-inning walk to Brandon Allen.
“We were working on the slider/cutter combination today,’’ he said. “I threw some good ones. Threw some bad ones, but they were down. That’s a positive. The negative for me was the walk. I don’t like walking guys, especially left-hand hitters. Other than that, thought I did pretty well. I focused on throwing strikes, working fast.”
Wedge liked what he saw from the left-hander.
“That’s Joe Saunders,’’ he said., “This guy knows how to pitch, he knows what he wants to do with the baseball. He adds and subtracts and moves the ball around, whether it be left and right, up and down. The name of the game is keeping these guys off-balance and that’s what he does.”
Saunders said he feels stronger than he has in past springs.
“Every offseason you try to do something different to prepare for the next year. I try to get in earlier, keep working out strong, and do a lot of shoulder programs. I feel really strong, really healthy. I’m pretty pleased where my arm is right now.”
The Mariners nearly saw their winning streak go up in flames in the ninth as Texas scored two off Bobby LaFramboise to pull within one, and loaded the bases. But he struck out Yangervis Solarte to preserve the Mariners’ ninth straight win, 7-6.
“We’ve got a good group of guys,’’ Wedge said. “They do good job of taking care of each other. It’s been a good working camp and guys are getting better. I think the young guys are working off the old guys, and the veteran guys are getting a lot of energy from the young guys, the way they play and the way they go about their business. I think they both appreciate that. It’s all about getting better, both individually and collectively as a ballclub, and I think that’s what you’re seeing.”