By Ryan Divish The News Tribune
PEORIA, Ariz. — Unlike many teams around major league baseball, the Seattle Mariners have been relatively healthy this spring.
They’ve had a few minor dings and dents — a stiff neck here, some tight leg muscles there — but they’ve avoided the season-affecting injuries that can cripple a team.
It looked as though that run of good fortune was going to come to an end on Saturday afternoon at Peoria Stadium in a 10-5 loss to the Cleveland Indians.
In the top of the second inning, starting pitcher Blake Beavan delivered a 1-0 fastball to touted Indians prospect Francisco Lindor. The switching-hitting infielder — batting left-handed — took a wild hack at the pitch, missing badly. And yet there was the sound of his wood bat colliding with something a second after the pitch went by.
It wasn’t the ball. It was Jesus Montero’s head and catching helmet.
Lindor’s follow through on the swing drilled Montero on the right side of his head. The catcher crumpled to the ground and into a fetal position. He lay motionless in the dirt as Mariners trainers and manager Eric Wedge rushed to his aid.
After a few minutes, a groggy Montero sat up. It was than a egg-sized knot on the right side of his forehead became visible. The trainers got Montero to his feet and had him carted off the field.
Preliminary tests indicated Montero did not suffer a concussion.
“I was just hoping he was OK, and the reports are that he is,” Wedge said. “It’s always scary when something like that happens up around the head.”
Montero has battled concussions in his past. Last season, he took a foul tip off a 92 mph fastball from Hector Noesi on the forehead of his mask. It left him woozy. He was later diagnosed with a minor concussion and missed a handful of games.
Wedge said he would meet with Montero after Saturday’s game to see how he’s feeling. It’s likely he could miss a few days.
Wedge joked that it might take a few days for the massive welt to shrink so Montero is able to get his helmet on again.
What wouldn’t be funny is if Montero had to start the season on the disabled list. The Mariners only have one other catcher — Kelly Shoppach — on the roster. The team would likely use Jesus Sucre as his backup, but they would have to put Sucre on the 40-man roster. With the potential of a few other non-roster players making the team, having to make an additional roster move might cost the Mariners a player or two.
Beavan hit hard
No matter what Blake Beavan tried to do, he couldn’t stop the hits from coming. The Mariners starting pitcher fought his way through 51/3 innings and his pitch count reached 100 pitches — which was the goal of his outing. However, giving up nine runs (eight earned) on 16 hits is not something that was enjoyable for Beavan.
To be fair, of those 16 hits, there were more than a few bloopers, broken bat bleeders and ground balls with eyes.
“He just wasn’t as crisp as he was the last time out,” Wedge said. “We got him up to 100 pitches which we needed to do. I liked the way he fought through it.”
Still, 16 hits is a lot and Beavan had never given up that many in a start in his baseball career.
“That was a fiesta today,” Beavan said. “I couldn’t believe it myself. Every time I tried to make a better pitch or when I did make a good pitch, they still found a way to get a hit. It was just one of those days where you can only do so much.”
Beavan did give up some hard-hit balls. Cord Phelps and Jason Giambi hit back-to-back home runs in the third inning.
“I was having trouble getting the ball down today, whether it was a good pitch or a bad pitch,” Beavan said. “When I got ahead, I just couldn’t put them away.”
Obviously, the result wasn’t ideal. But Wedge said it wasn’t going to knock Beavan out of the competition for a starting rotation spot.
“You evaluate everything — the good days and the not so good days,” he said. “Then you figure out why. We assess everything in its entirety. We talk about their path to get here and where they are right now.”
The club officially released pitcher Jon Garland and first baseman Mike Jacobs from their minor league contracts on Saturday. … Hisashi Iwakuma pitched seven-plus innings in a minor league game against the Cincinnati Reds Class AAA Team. Iwakuma faced 32 batters and threw 91 pitches. He gave up two earned runs on 10 hits and didn’t walk a batter while striking out five.