The process of John Jaso becoming a viable everyday catcher with the Seattle Mariners continued Monday.
The third-year player has slowly earned the trust of Mariners manager Eric Wedge since joining the team in the offseason, and the injury to Miguel Olivo helped expedite the process.
Jaso was in lineup at catcher Monday against the Rangers and tasked with catching Mariners ace and 2010 Cy Young Award winner Felix Hernandez.
It was the first time for Jaso to catch Hernandez in a regular-season game. Jaso had caught Hernandez during one spring training game and a couple of spring training bullpen sessions.
“I haven’t caught him since then, not even bullpen sessions,” Jaso said.
Jaso’s experience seeing Hernandez is pretty limited.
“I never hit against him either when I was the Rays,” he said. “His change-up is so tough on lefties so I always sat the bench whenever we faced him.”
Wedge didn’t seem too concerned for Jaso.
“John’s come a long ways,” he said. “He’s much more comfortable than he was earlier. It’s a good opportunity for him to catch Felix.”
Jaso, who caught 168 games prior to Monday, faced a tough challenge with Hernandez, whose pitches can have extreme movement. That has caused problems for other Seattle catchers, particularly Kenji Johjima, Rob Johnson, Olivo and Jesus Montero.
“It was pretty cool to see it,” Jaso said. “He throws his curveball real hard and has tight spin. But so much of it is the consistency of his delivery. He hides the ball really well so you can’t pick up the spin until it’s right on you. Before you know it, the ball is doing something different than the pitch before.”
So does that make it difficult for a catcher?
“It only becomes difficult when the ball moves in a different direction than you are expecting,” Jaso said.
The best example would be when Hernandez throws his two-seam fastball and instead of sinking, the ball cuts because of finger pressure.
As for calling the game, it’s common knowledge that Hernandez calls his own pitches. He isn’t afraid to shake off any catcher, and he throws what he wants.
“I try and get on the same page as much possible by trying to read his patterns,” Jaso said.
OLIVO STARTS REHAB
Olivo began his rehab assignment for a strained groin Monday with the Tacoma Rainiers. Olivo was in the starting lineup at catcher and batted third for the Rainiers, who played the Iowa Cubs in Des Moines, Iowa.
He played five innings and went 1-for-3 with a run scored.
Wedge said the plan will be for Olivo to be the designated hitter in today’s game, catch again Wednesday and then the Mariners will re-evaluate the situation. But Wedge said Olivo must show the Mariners he can catch nine innings before they bring him back.
Olivo was placed on the disabled list May 1 after injuring his groin the night before against Tampa Bay.
The Mariners will send right-hander Hector Noesi (2-4, 5.61 ERA) to the mound tonight at Safeco Field, while left-hander Matt Harrison (4-3, 5.21 ERA) will start for the Rangers. First pitch is set for 7:10 p.m. The game will be broadcast on Root Sports and 710-AM.email@example.com 253-597-8483 blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports @RyanDivish