Tag: Mariners


Can Jesus Montero catch? He’s motivated to show he can


PEORIA, Ariz. – There are some who say Jesus Montero will never be a quality major league catcher.

Analysts who rush to praise his quick, powerful bat are equally quick to pan his defensive skills. His receiving is poor, his footwork worse, they say. He’s too big (6-3, 235), and not athletic enough to play the position. His arm, while strong, takes too long to release the ball. It goes on and on, and there are numbers to back it up, as he has thrown out only 21 percent of base-stealers over the course of five minor leagues seasons.

Montero, the 22-year-old Venezuelan who the Seattle Mariners acquired from the New York Yankees in exchange for pitcher Michael Pineda, has heard the criticisms. He understands it, but he’s not buying into it. Montero says he’s been catching since he was 4 years old, and he’s certainly not ready to change positions. He loves the challenges that come from the position, the ability to control the game from behind the dish, to help his pitcher through the rough spots. He’s eager to prove his critics wrong, to show that he can be that rare breed of catcher that is equally proficient behind the plate as he is in the batter’s box.

“Most catchers don’t hit but they control the game, they know how to catch,” Montero said on Tuesday in the Mariners clubhouse. “Sometimes you have to give something away so you can catch or you can hit. But if you can do all that together you can be amazing like (Jorge) Posada, you know?”

(Listen to Montero talk about his desire to prove his doubters wrong) 

Montero draws inspiration from Posada, his former Yankees teammate who retired this offseason after 17 years in New York. Posada was never known as a great defensive catcher, but he was good enough to log 1,574 games there for the Yankees, more than 86 percent of his starts.

“If I see a big example in front of my face, it was Posada,” he said. “I want to be like him. We were together a lot. He taught me a lot.”

Montero projects to be an even better hitter than Posada, but what about the defense? Can he become good enough at the position to make the Mariners comfortable keeping him there? It’s certainly worth a try, as big-hitting catchers are hard to find. The Mariners acknowledge that Montero has some work to do to become proficient defensively, but they’re working hard to do just that.

“He’s a talented young man and we’re very happy to have him,” said third base coach Jeff Datz, who is also charged with working with Mariners catchers. “There is work to be done with him, as with all our other catchers. We like his size, we like the body, and there’s arm strength there, obviously a lot of ability to work with. Yes, he needs some cleaning up in certain areas, and we’re going through that process right now with him and with our other catchers.”

Montero is expected to be primarily a DH this season, spelling starting catcher Miguel Olivo behind the plate for 20-40 games. Olivo, for his part, preaches patience, pointing out that he also reached the big leagues in his early 20s and admitting that it took him “2 ½-3 years to really realize what I need to do behind the plate.”

 (Listen to Miguel Olivo talk about what Montero must do to improve)


“He’s young and he can hit already. That’s not a problem,” Olivo said. “He needs to get better at receiving and blocking, and communicate more with the pitchers. It takes time, though. I had the same problems. … That’s the thing he needs to go through now. Maybe a couple years, one year and he’ll be ready to do it.”

Montero said he’s ready for the challenge. He speaks calmly and confidently. He doesn’t seem upset by his critics, but admits that they motivate him.

“I just want to get more opportunities to catch and show everybody that I can catch,” he said. “I did it in Triple-A. I hope I can do it here, too, to help my pitchers like I did in the minors. I’m gonna work hard day-by-day to help my team. That’s it.”

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Rockies sign reliever Sean White to minor league contract


Colorado has at least five and possibly six bullpen spots locked in already, but the Rockies added some more relief depth yesterday by signing right-hander Sean White to a minor-league contract with an invite to spring training.

White struggled last season, but has a 4.16 ERA in 134 career innings spent with the Mariners and has succeeded despite a terrible 59/51 K/BB ratio because he’s a sinker-ball pitcher who’s allowed just nine homers in 500 at-bats.

Continuing to keep the ball on the ground would make White a good fit for Coors Field, but he’s nowhere near an extreme enough ground-ball pitcher to thrive long term without significantly improving his strikeout rate or control.

Mariners sign Adam Kennedy to minor league contract

Adam Kennedy, Chris Denorfia

Adam Kennedy, whose $2 million option for 2011 was declined by the Nationals last month, has agreed to a minor-league contract with an invitation to spring training from the Mariners.

Kennedy started 85 games for the Nationals last season, including 75 at second base, but hit just .249 with a .327 on-base percentage and .327 slugging percentage while failing to crack a .700 OPS for the third time in four years.

At age 35 he’s likely nearing the end of the line, but Kennedy may still be useful as a platoon player or bench bat limited mostly to facing right-handed pitching. There’s an opportunity for him to work his way into the picture at second base if he thrives this spring or Brendan Ryan struggles, as the Mariners will basically just be keeping the position warm for top prospect Dustin Ackley’s arrival sometime around midseason.

Chone Figgins is moving back to third base for the Mariners


Last offseason the Mariners signed Chone Figgins and moved him to second base, a position he hadn’t played regularly since 2005.

It didn’t go well, as Figgins compounded his disappointing production at the plate by struggling defensively, with Ultimate Zone Rating pegging him as 12.3 runs below average.

Not surprisingly, with 2010 third baseman Jose Lopez traded to the Rockies and top second base prospect Dustin Ackley on the verge of the majors the Mariners have decided to shift Figgins back to third base.

The shift has been assumed since Seattle acquired Brendan Ryan last month to presumably keep second base warm until Ackley is ready, and general manager Jack Zduriencik told Kirby Arnold of the Everett Herald that he recently informed Figgins of the move.

Figgins at third base with Ryan at second base and Jack Wilson at shortstop is an elite defensive infield, although it won’t do much to help improve the Mariners’ historically awful offense. Ackley’s arrival should do that, at which point Ryan will likely shift into a utility role or split time with Wilson at shortstop.

Mariners re-sign catcher Josh Bard to minor league deal

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Seattle has signed Josh Bard to a minor-league contract for the second straight offseason.

Last year he spent most of the first half at Triple-A before joining the Mariners for good in early July and hitting .214 with a .634 OPS in 39 games while backing up Adam Moore.

This time around he’ll compete with Moore for the job backing up Miguel Olivo, who the Mariners signed to a two-year, $7 million contract last month.

Bard has played for five teams in parts of nine seasons in the majors, and new Mariners manager Eric Wedge is familiar with him from their time together in Cleveland from 2003 to 2005.