By Shannon Drayer
Mariners catcher Jesus Montero was sat down last night and given the news that he was being sent to Triple-A Tacoma. In the eyes of general manager Jack Zduriencik, the move was the right move to be made both for the player and the team.
With Mike Zunino clearly the catcher of the future, the determination was made that Montero no longer needed to focus on catching and that perhaps that focus was hurting his hitting.
Jesus Montero's days as a primary catcher appear to be over as the Mariners will now focus on trying to maximize his offensive potential. (AP)
It was a telling sign that a move could be coming when manager Eric Wedge started Kelly Shoppach in both games against the Angels, a team that would run if it had a chance.
"It's simple," Zduriencik said of sending Montero down. "Sometimes a player has to take a step back to take two steps forward. He's just 23. He's just a puppy. We told him this is normal for a player to go up and down until they figure it out."
It was pointed out to Montero that he was acquired to be a "big-time offensive player" for the Mariners for a long time to come.
"Bottom line is, are you the offensive player you think you can be?" Montero was asked.
Montero was told the move was about maximizing his gifts. The move was made so he would have the chance to be that big-time offensive hitter at the major-league level, in the position that was best for him and the organization.
That will not be at catcher. Zduriencik said Montero will get to work on the hitting right away. He will get his at-bats without the pressure he perhaps was feeling at the big-league level. He will DH, get some work at first and catch occasionally.
While the catching clearly has not worked out, interestingly enough, if Montero is able to play first the Mariners could end up with a needed piece – a third catcher. Having a player that can play a primary position and catch is a luxury for managers. It will take time to see if he can acclimate himself to the new position, but if he does, all of a sudden he gives the team some flexibility moving forward.
This move no doubt will be tough on Montero. As I said above, he put the work in at catching and while he did not excel at it I think he did enjoy and take pride in being behind the plate. It is part of his identity. As aloof as he has seemed at times, I do believe catching is important to him and losing that will be as bitter a pill to swallow as being sent down.
Hopefully he puts that behind him quickly. He has three days to report to Tacoma. Zduriencik told me no timetable has been put on him for a return.
"We told him it is the right thing to do for him, his future and for the organization," Zduriencik said. "Take a step back, and then how you handle it, it's in your lap now."