SEATTLE — While awaiting Kendrys Morales’ prodigal return, the Mariners also sought to bolster their scuffling attack by promoting shortstop Chris Taylor and first baseman/DH Jesus Montero from Triple-A Tacoma.
Both started Thursday’s series opener against Baltimore at Safeco Field. While Montero could merely be holding space for Morales, who is expected to arrive Friday, Taylor appears likely to get steady duty.
“I would say,” manager Lloyd McClendon confirmed, “he’ll get his fair share of playing time.”
Taylor, 23, was batting .328 in 75 games for the Rainiers with five homers and 37 RBIs and was recently picked as the top Pacific Coast League’s top player in the Triple-A All-Star Game.
“Overwhelmed,” Taylor said. “I found out this morning and couldn’t be more thrilled. It’s a dream come true. Being able to call my parents…it was tough to hold it together.
“That moment is something you’re never going to forget. Talking to them on the phone, and hearing their voices, and how excited they were, it’s just an indescribable feeling.”
The Mariners cleared space for Taylor and Montero by optioning right-handed pitcher Taijuan Walker to Tacoma and placing infielder Willie Bloomquist on the disabled list.
Bloomquist, 36, suffered a bruised right knee Wednesday while running out a RBI ground out in a 3-2 loss to the New York Mets. He is scheduled to undergo a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exam.
“He’s really sore,” McClendon said. “The fact is, where we are, we can’t play without a utility infielder. It just doesn’t make sense. You have to have a backup infielder in case something happens.”
Miller is a right-handed hitter whose arrival means less playing time for shortstop Brad Miller, a left-handed hitter who is batting .205 with eight homers and 26 RBIs in 86 games.
“I think the fact (Miller) is right-handed was a factor in this decision,” general manager Jack Zduriencik said. “And he was producing and playing very well in Triple-A…We’ll see. Let the best man win.”
The Mariners were poised to promote Taylor earlier in the season, but he suffered a broken baby finger on his left hand while sliding into second base on May 13 at Las Vegas.
Taylor was batting .372 through 35 games at the time of his injury. He missed four weeks and struggled initially on his return — going 7-for-45 in his first 12 games.
Since then: .339 in 28 games with a .409 on-base percentage and a .438 slugging percentage.
“It’s always frustrating when you can’t play and can’t be on the field,” Taylor said. “The timing of it all, because I was feeling so good and seeing the ball really well, was really frustrating.
“That’s baseball. Things like that happen all of the time. I’m just glad to be back now and be in Seattle.”
Montero’s return to the big leagues could be brief — in as much as McClendon has already said he plans for Morales to serve as the regular DH and to use a platoon of Corey Hart and Logan Morrison at first base.
Even so, Montero’s promotion followed a 21-for-47 surge at Tacoma that included five doubles, five homers and 18 RBIs over the last 12 games.
It also reflected a growing comfort with his new batting stance; an exaggerated open stance that initially presents his chest toward the pitcher before he pulls his left foot back in when the pitch is delivered.
“I kept doing it,” Montero said, “and now I feel comfortable. I get a better look at the pitcher. Now, (my stance) is more like (former big-leaguer) Andres Galarraga.
“I get to see the pitcher better, and that helps me to be more patient.”
Montero said he began to make the move while on his last promotion with the Mariners from June 12-27. He converted to the approach, with the help of Tacoma hitting coach Cory Snyder, after returning to the minors.
“It’s been working really well,” Montero said. “I was hitting the ball really well in Tacoma.”
Outfielder Brayan Hernandez, a 16-year-old from Venezuela, hasn’t yet signed officially with the Mariners, but he took batting practice with the big-league club prior to Thursday’s game against the Orioles.
The Mariners have an agreement in place with Hernandez, which is believed to include a signing bonus of $1.85 million. The international signing period began July 2.
Hernandez, who is 6 feet 1 and 170 pounds, was ranked by Baseball America as this year’s No. 3 international prospect.
It was 23 years ago Friday — July 25, 1991 — that ex-Yankee Jay Buhner hit what was then the longest homer at the old Yankee Stadium since its 1975 refurbishment.
Buhner’s drive came in the second inning against Yankees starter Wade Taylor and soared an estimated 479 feet over the ambulance that was always parked in the left-center-field entryway.
The Mariners won 6-3 with current broadcaster Bill Krueger getting the victory. Krueger allowed three unearned runs in six innings.
The Mariners and Orioles continue their four-game series at 7:10 p.m. Friday at Safeco Field. Right-hander Felix Hernandez (11-2 with a 2.02 ERA) will face Baltimore right-hander Kevin Gausman (4-3, 4.04).
Root Sports will broadcast the game.
The series continues with 1:10 p.m. games on Saturday and Sunday. The Mariners have an open date Monday before embarking on a road trip for three games in Cleveland and three more in Baltimore.