By Shannon Drayer
About a month ago Eric Wedge offered up the possibility that we could see Jesus Montero get some innings at first base before the end of the year. This wasn’t a shocking revelation as the Yankees had talked about putting him there, and with Mike Zunino on the horizon it has always been a safe assumption that we could see him at least given a look there at some point.
Montero routinely takes balls at first and third during batting practice and that caught my eye as Wedge was having his pregame chat Wednesday. Since the topic hadn’t been brought up in some time I asked if he was still considering trying him there sometime before the end of the season. Wedge looked up at Montero right as he kicked a ball at first and laughed good-naturedly.
“Probably not,” he answered as Montero let the next ball go through his legs.
The Mariners want Jesus Montero to improve his below-average speed. (AP)
Timing was terrible, but in all honesty Montero is just having a little fun out there and mixing up his pregame routine. At some point, however, Wedge will want Montero to get serious about learning the position. He has talked to him about working on the fundamentals of first base this winter with the idea of coming to spring training ready to work in earnest at the position.
“I like the dynamic where you have got three different ways to get him in the lineup,” Wedge said. “Catcher, first base and DH.”
Like last year, Wedge will no doubt have a plan for what he wants individuals to do this offseason and it sounds like Montero will have a laundry list of things to accomplish. Along with working on first base there will be catching fundamentals, conditioning and agility drills to concentrate on as well.
“We want to make sure we utilize this winter … big time,” Wedge said of Montero’s offseason.
Wedge also said that Montero’s lack of speed will be an area of attention. He believes Montero can get quicker.
“There are different avenues we can go,” he said. “You are talking about form, basically. You are talking about approach and we are going to address that, too. That was actually number one a few months back, the others (catching, first base) have worked their way in.”
Montero is far too slow for a 22-year-old, in reasonably good shape for an athlete, and it is clear that his running form is the culprit. I will never forget the first time I saw him run in a game in spring training. I couldn’t believe what I saw as he loped his way to first on a grounder. I thought he was dogging it.
The second time I saw him run it was on a ball that clearly was a double. I saw the same upright stride as he shrunk the double into a single and was alarmed. I wondered whether he was hurt.
The third time I saw him run I had a revelation that was almost as alarming as the previous at-bat: oh my gosh, this is how he runs.
We have seen it, we have joked about it, we have accepted it perhaps a little too soon. With any luck Montero will get with a running specialist and see some improvement. This first full season is hopefully just a starting point for him as it hopefully is for others like Dustin Ackley and Kyle Seager.
Hopefully he will make strides forward this winter. Quicker strides.
• Franklin Gutierrez was out of the lineup after feeling groin tightness following a diving catch in Tuesday’s game. He spent the better part of pregame stretching in the clubhouse and looks to be good to go after the off day.
• Michael Saunders should be in the lineup Friday as well as he was put through quite a workout on the bases before Wednesday’s game and came through it okay.
• There is a good possibility we could see Erasmo Ramirez and Hector Noesi get starts in the final weeks. Wedge said he and Carl Willis had mapped out a plan for the final weeks of pitching and we should hear more about this Friday.
• With the win against the Red Sox Wednesday the Mariners have matched their win total from last year with 24 left to play.