May 19, 2013 at 9:06 AM
Jesus Montero in Mariners lineup catching Felix Hernandez
Jesus Montero will get a quick shot at redemption today after his tough day yesterday on the bases and behind the plate on that decisive ninth-inning play. Montero usually has big games when catching Felix Hernandez and the Mariners are going to go with that battery today.
Mariners manager Eric Wedge had a chance to review yesterday’s key play on video and is convinced Brendan Ryan’s throw would have made it in time to Montero had the latter kept his foot on home plate.
“He just came off the plate,” Wedge said. “He just released too early. You’ve got to keep your foot planted. You’re not going to turn two on that, so you’ve just got to keep your foot planted on that.”
After hearing that, I asked Wedge whether that was something that comes with experience, or whether it’s a more basic fundamental that the Mariners teach all their catchers and that they are expected to already be adept at.
“That’s what you see us do in spring training,” Wedge said. “The home-to-first, or the force out or the tag play at home. Those are things you work on.”
Ultimately, he said, Montero’s fundamentals of foot and glovework on the play got all messed up.
“I’ve been there,” Wedge said. “It’s the game-on-the-line situation. You’ve got to be under control and kind of be in your first baseman’s mode. But not to where the ball could be anywhere. Understand that , one, you’re only going to get one out. So stay put and get one out.
And two, just work your feet accordingly. He probably should have gone out with the other foot and caught the ball like this,” he added, demonstrating by twisting his hand in an upright position rather than to the side. “He just put himself in a tough position to where he kind of pulled himself off.”
So, anyway, like I said, it was a bit of a rough day for Montero. After Wedge was done speaking to reporters, he went out on the field and had an extended conversation with Montero behind the batting cage, going over the technical aspects of the play and how the catcher should have handeld it. You can see it in the photos above.
In other news, Aaron Harang is feeling better and threw his pregame bullpen session today. If he feels OK tomorrow, he’ll start on Tuesday in Anaheim.
As for the hitters, Wedge is feeling better about the progress made by Justin Smoak and Ryan. Smoak has been building on that foundation — as we’ve discussed on the blog — of being more selective in which pitches he decides to unload on.
It hasn’t led to big power numbers, but you really can’t argue with an on-base percentage of .374. Like Smoak, Wedge remains convinced that if the first baseman keeps the fundamentals of his approach in-line, the power will eventually show up once he gets better pitches to hit.
“If you do have a good eye, which he does and (Dustin) Ackley does too, then you’ve got the best of all worlds,” Wedge said. “You’re aggressive when you need to be on pitches to hit and you can aggressively lay off pitches too. But you’re in a hit mode where you can see the ball better. Again, if they don’t come to you, you lay the bat down and go to the next batter. He’s done a nice job of that.”
I asked Wedge whether Smoak was still missing some hittable pitches. After all, with just two home runs in seven weeks, you’d have to think there were a few more offerings a first baseman could have cranked by now.
“Everyody misses pitches at times,” Wedge said. “But I think he’s done a lot better job with that. He’s done a lot better job of hitting pitches he should hit.”
As for Ryan, who hit his first homer of the season yesterday and is on a five-game hitting streak in which he’s 8-for-19, Wedge said the coaches have worked on some fundamentals with him to create more balance at the plate and help him stay behind the ball better.
Ryan has also done a better job of controlling his emotional side.
“I think that’s part of it,” Wedge said. “I’ve always said that’s been part of it. It’s been better. He’s more more even-keeled and not so emotional like he has been. And I think that’s helped him.”