By Shannon Drayer
We caught up with Jesus Montero in the clubhouse this morning, and it turns out the grand slam he hit yesterday was painful in more ways than one. The area where he got hit on the head is still tender and he said he felt pressure on the area when he put the batting helmet on.
“I still feel it,” he said at his locker. “But I was like, you know what? You are playing. Have fun.”
His biggest concern was that he didn’t want his teammates to thump him on the head when he came back to the dugout after the grand slam.
“I take the helmet off and then it was, don’t hit me on the head, don’t hit me on the head!” he laughed.
He turned serious though when asked about the grand slam he hit off Wilkin De La Rosa.
“I feel bad because the guy who was pitching is my brother,” he explained. “He’s my partner. He was with me in rookie ball. We helped each other a lot. Before we didn’t have anything. Now we are in the big leagues so it is hard. I feel a little bad for him but that is the game.”
Since he knew De La Rosa so well he was a little surprised at what he saw come out of his hand.
“First pitch he threw a change-up and I was laughing. Like, what are you doing. You crazy! He was laughing too,” he said. “He tried to make the same pitch and it went over the middle and I hit a homer.”
As for the guy he was catching, Brandon Maurer, Montero liked what he saw.
It was the longest outing he had caught Maurer, and he was most impressed with not only his ability, but willingness to throw his slider, change-up and curve in any count.
“3-2, slider, 3-2 curve, I was like, whoa. This guy is good,” he said.
“He showed me yesterday he is not afraid,” he continued. “He can do it, he can throw those pitches. He can play in the big leagues, right now. He is a good pitcher.”
After we talked to Montero I sought out Kyle Seager to ask about how he found himself at first base, with a glove, yesterday.
“It was different for sure. I think I played a couple innings there last spring but that was the only time I had played first, aside when I was like four,” he said.
Seager, who has not worked out at first this spring, was given no advance notice he would be playing first in the game against the Reds. Bench coach Robbie Thompson approached him before the sixth inning and told him to go to first. He didn’t have much time to think about it or find a glove, but teammate Dustin Ackley was looking out for him.
“I think he already told Dustin because Dustin was already prepared,” said Seager with a laugh. “He already had a glove ready for me. He was ready to go.”
Seager used Michael Morse’s glove and handled everything that was thrown his way. He also started a nice double play. All and all, things were rather uneventful for him at first, thankfully.
The middle of of the clubhouse is starting to fill up with boxes and suitcases as the Mariners get ready to leave Peoria Friday. On Thursday they will pack up the truck that will head to Seattle, but a good number of guys are getting a jump on the packing and bringing in items to be sent home. We are almost there.
Today’s lineup, at first glance, could be the Opening Day lineup without Jesus Montero. Yes, no, maybe? Hard to imagine Michael Saunders not in the Opening Day lineup, right? This leads to the biggest question I have going into the season and that is, how much are the fourth and fifth outfielders going to play?
One of the problems is, and it is a very good problem to have, Justin Smoak is hitting and Kendrys Morales appears to be durable. If this continues, there is little reason you would want to take them out of the lineup, so the DH position will not often be available for the extra outfielder or perhaps Jesus Montero should they want to give him days off behind the plate but keep his bat in the lineup.
Then there is the whole issue of who leads off. It is looking more and more likely that Wedge will be mixing and matching at the top of the order — at least to start the season. The middle of the order appears to be set, and I don’t need to tell you that is a good thing, but beyond that I don’t think we will see the Mariners settling into any kind of everyday lineup for some time. Finding playing time for guys could be a challenge, even more so if Mike Zunino progresses quickly.
A couple of quick notes. It now appears that Erasmo Ramirez will not throw behind Felix tomorrow and instead will start a minor league game and throw around 50 pitches. As I said yesterday, it would appear that he is out of the competition for the starting rotation and I would be very surprised if the Mariners started him in the bullpen. He is more than likely headed for Triple A.
I have spent some time down on the minor league fields the last couple of days, and that got me wondering just where Stephen Romero was in his recovery from an oblique injury. Turns out the news is good. Romero started hitting in the cages yesterday, and if all goes well he should start playing in extended spring training games in the second week of April. Once he gets enough work in I would expect to see him assigned to Tacoma.
Last but not least, the podcast for the final Cactus League Report of the year is up on sports.mynorthwest.com and can be found here. The show includes interviews with Jack Zduriencik, Eric Wedge, Felix Hernandez, Jason Bay, Brendan Ryan, Chris Gwynn, Dan Wilson, Jim Caple of ESPN.com and Mariners marketing director Gregg Greene.