By Ryan Divish The News Tribune
PEORIA, Ariz. — Jesus Montero hit a triple.
That’s not a typo or a misprint.
The lumbering Mariners catcher, who often evokes comparisons to tortoises and snails because of his time-consuming gait, is one of the least likely candidates to hit a triple. He has yet to hit one in his brief big league career.
But in Saturday’s “B” game against the San Diego Padres, it happened. Montero hit a ball, started running and didn’t stop until he reached third base.
Montero lashed a ball off the wall deep in right center. Padres center fielder Rico Noel and right fielder Yeison Asencio both tried to make leaping grabs of the fly ball. Neither came up with it, and the ball bounced off the wall back toward the infield. By the time the Padres could get the ball back into the infield, Montero was at third.
Montero saw it all happen in front of him and didn’t think of stopping at second base.
“I was thinking three all the time,” he said. “I was having fun running the bases. I haven’t hit a triple for three or four years. Everyone was laughing.”
Officially, he has hit six triples in his minor league career with the Yankees, his last coming in 2011 at Class AAA.
“It had to happen like it happened today,” Montero said. “It had to hit the wall, or someone fall down, so I could get a triple. I never stopped running when I saw the ball drop into the middle of center field. Just run and see what happens.”
What happened was Montero didn’t look like he was running on ice as chugged to third. While he will not be confused with Usain Bolt in terms of speed or technique, the work Montero’s done in the offseason has made his running form look somewhat athletic.
“I just want to get my knees a little higher, try to get quicker,” he said. “I know, everyone knows, I’m slow, but I try hard to be a little faster.”
Since this was a “B” game, it doesn’t count toward the Cactus League stats, which are also meaningless.
And really there is a general disbelief that it actually happened.
But for the roughly 30 people in attendance — consisting of scouts, family and media — they witnessed something unlikely. Even Montero’s knows it.
“I was really happy to hit the triple,” he said. “It’s like a dream for me.”
Romero strains oblique
Stefen Romero couldn’t hide the disappointment. On Thursday, the hard-hitting infield prospect was riding high. He’d hit two homers — including a grand slam — and drove in seven runs in a Cactus League win over the Royals. He’d received over 30 congratulatory text messages.
The next day, all of his spring training success came to an abrupt and painful halt.
Romero strained his oblique muscle while swinging and missing at a pitch in the dirt in his first at-bat.
“It was so surreal, going from being on cloud nine to the bottom,” he said. “You have to take it day by day, Just focus on positive thoughts.”
On Saturday, Romero began the long recovery and the wait before he can step on the field again.
“We are going to take it week by week,” he said.
“We’ll continue to see how he feels, but it’s going to be a while,” said Mariners’ manager Eric Wedge. “It’s tough for a young man to have to go through something like that, but we all have to do it. Like I told him, ‘it’s just a bump in the road.’”
Romero knows he can’t force his way back onto the field. The injury needs time to heal or it will continue to be a problem.
“You don’t want to rush these things because it’s so vital, especially in a baseball player,” Romero said. “You just produce so much torque when you are hitting, running, throwing. It’s a muscle you use constantly. You don’t want to rush too soon. If it happens again, you are back again at ground zero.”
Casper Well was scratched from the “B” game with a sore neck. Wedge said Wells will start today against the White Sox. … Jason Bay had a productive B game. The veteran outfielder hit a fastball from Robbie Erlin over the wall in right-center for a three-run homer. … Joe Saunders started the B game and pitched 22/3 innings, allowing three runs (two earned) on four hits. He gave up an inside-the-park home run to Jonathan Galvez, when outfielders Eric Thames and Francisco Martinez briefly collided on a fly ball to left-center field.