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May 23, 2013 at 2:51 PM

Mariners option Jesus Montero to AAA, all but ending catching career

Mariners manager Eric Wedge (right) talks to Jesus Montero on the field in Cleveland before Sunday's game, going over a play from the night before that resulted in a Seattle loss when the catcher took his foot off home plate. Montero was optioned to Class AAA today and his days as a catcher for the Mariners are now all but over.

Mariners manager Eric Wedge (right) talks to Jesus Montero on the field in Cleveland before Sunday’s game, going over a play from the night before that resulted in a Seattle loss when the catcher took his foot off home plate. Montero was optioned to Class AAA today and his days as a catcher for the Mariners are now all but over.

Just got back in Seattle off my flight and the Mariners today wasted little time making their first roster move after the 2-7 road trip, demoting catcher Jesus Montero to Class AAA. While the corresponding roster move has yet to be announced, Jesus Sucre will be added to the club tomorrow to serve as the backup to Kelly Shoppach.

The 40-man roster spot will be created for Sucre ahead of tomorrow night’s game, but won’t involve a player currently on the major league squad. There are a number of minor league guys who could be taken off the roster, one of them being center fielder Francisco Martinez. So, we’ll see on that.

The Mariners also won’t be making any more moves involving the major league club for at least a few more days. There has been speculation about the futures of both Aaron Harang and Brandon Maurer, but the team doesn’t have to deal with their spots until it’s time for them to start once again.

As for Montero, his days as a catcher are effectively over.

The Mariners will still use him as a catcher sporadically in AAA. But he is being sent there to focus on his hitting and will do that mostly as a designated hitter and first baseman. Any catching he does with the Mariners from now on — assuing he makes it back to the majors — will be in an emergency capacity only.

This decision has been in the works for some time. There is a feeling amost Mariners officials that all the extra work Montero has put into his catching has had a terrible impact on his hitting.

Not that his catching was making any great strides. Montero had thrown out just one runner in 24 would-be steal attempts this season and the decision by the Mariners to go with Kelly Shoppach as the catcher against the Angels — namely because the Mariners feared that team’s running game would go wild on Montero — told you all you need to know aout why this move was made.

Looking at the organization’s catching depth, with minor leaguers Mike Zunino and John Hicks emerging as future mainstays at the position, the Mariners felt it was time to pull the plug on the whole Montero-as-a-backstop experiment. Things reached a head in Cleveland this past weekend when Montero took his foot off the plate while taking a throw from Brendan Ryan on a play that ended Saturday’s game in the bottom of the ninth inning.

The Mariners were impressed by Montero’s willingness to learn the catching position and his dedication to improving at it. They are also willing to forgive many of his on-field mistakes and occasional mental lapses as being the product of a 23-year-old dealing with MLB rigors for the first time.

But production matters in the big leagues and Montero’s offensive numbers — a .208 batting average and .590 OPS for a supposed power hitter — were just too poor to be allowed to continue much longer. The team has told Montero that no time limit has been placed on his return and that getting back to the big leagues will require better at prowess and continued daily improvement as a player.

What this also means, for now, is that the Mariners are not planning any additional moves based on position players already on the team. So, Dustin Ackley, Robert Andino, Brendan Ryan and others who have been rumored about are safe for now.

 

 

Comments | More in catchers | Topics: jesus montero; jesus sucre; kelly shoppach; jack zduriencik

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