By John Boyle
The Mariners not only lost to Tampa Bay in extra innings Monday, they lost their starting catcher, Miguel Olivo, for at least a couple of weeks.
Olivo, who injured his groin while fielding a ball in front of home plate, was placed on the 15-day disabled list Tuesday, and outfielder Mike Carp was recalled to fill the spot on the 25-man roster. While Olivo has certainly had his vocal critics, he had been hitting well of late with an eight-game hitting streak that included three home runs.
Olivo’s injury will force Jesus Montero into more playing time behind the plate, with John Jaso also seeing time at catcher after playing primarily as a DH thus far. And while the Mariners and manager Eric Wedge believe Montero can be a good major league catcher, this is not the way they wanted to increase his playing time.
Prior to this road trip, Wedge talked about bringing Montero along slowly.
“He’s a young catcher,” Wedge said. “Every day he’s back there he’s learning. You’ve got so much responsibility back there and there are so many things that you’ve got to have going on back there, so it takes time. He’s not ready to catch every day yet… We’ve got to be careful with his work load, we’ve got to make sure we stay ahead of everything for him mentally and physically. The fundamental side of things is a day-to-day process, so he’s got a lot on his plate.
“That was part of the equation when we brought him over here. What people need to understand is that it would actually take him longer to be the total player he needs to be if he was back there every day right now, because it would get in the way of his development. It is what it is. I just know that first-hand.”
The Mariners may not want Montero catching on anything close to an every-day basis, but thanks to Olivo’s injury, they don’t have a choice but to play him back there a lot more.
And for what it’s worth, Montero has hit much better in games he has caught than when he is a DH. In six games as a catcher, he is hitting .450 with three home runs and eight RBI, while in 16 as a DH, Montero is batting .197 with one homer and five RBI.