PEORIA, Ariz. – Jesus Montero hit a triple. That’s not 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 make it to third on any ball hit in play. He has yet to hit one in his 153-game big league career.
But in Saturday’s “B” game against the San Diego Padres, it happened.
Montero lashed a ball off the wall deep in right-center field. Padres center fielder Rico Noel and right fielder Yeison Asencio both tried to make leaping grabs and neither came up with it. The ball bounced off the wall back toward the infield and by the time they could pick it up and fire it in, Montero was safe at third.
Montero saw it all happen in front of him and didn’t even 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 hit six triples in the minor leagues with the Yankees, his last coming in 2011 at Triple-A.
“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.”
He won’t be confused with Usain Bolt in terms of speed or technique, but Montero’s offseason work made his running form look reasonably 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.”
For the roughly 30 people in attendance – scouts, family and media – there was a sense of disbelief. Even Montero felt that way.
“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 his disappointment. Two days before, 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. The outing inspired over 30 congratulatory text messages.
The next day, his hot streak came to an abrupt and painful halt.
Romero suffered a strained oblique 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.”
Mariners manager Eric Wedge spoke to Romero about the injury and trying to keep his spirits up.
“We’ll continue to see how he feels, but it’s going to be a while,” Wedge said. “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 the injury needs proper time to heal or it could get worse.
“You don’t want to rush these things because it’s so vital, especially in a baseball player,” he said. “You just produce so much torque when you are hitting, running, throwing. It’s a muscle you use constantly. If it happens again, you are back again at ground zero.”
Casper Wells 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 day. The veteran outfielder ripped a fastball from Robbie Erlin over the wall in right-center field 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 collided on a fly ball to left-center field.