ARLINGTON, Texas — The biggest plus Monday for the Mariners in a disappointing 3-2 loss to Texas came from lefty Mike Montgomery in his big-league debut as a reliever.
Montgomery struck out the side in the seventh inning after replacing Felix Hernandez before working around a one-out walk in a scoreless eighth inning.
"It was a good way to start, for sure," Montgomery said. "It was exciting, my first opening day. It went well. I fell behind 2-1 (on the first batter), and then I came back and struck him out. It was a calming feeling to get the first out."
Montgomery, 26, shifted to bullpen duty in mid-March after eight professional seasons as a starter.
The Mariners made the move for two reasons: Montgomery is out of options, and club officials didn’t see him as a first-tier candidate for the rotation. And Charlie Furbush’s continuing shoulder problems had thinned the pool of lefty relievers.
"It is a work in progress," manager Scott Servais said late in spring. "I like Mike’s stuff. I think he has a chance to have a huge year for us in that role. It’s just a matter of getting him comfortable."
Montgomery appeared comfortable on Monday.
"That was awesome to see," Servais said. "I’m looking forward to many more of those. He’s never been a reliever before. We liked what we saw coming out of spring training. He’s starting to get a feel for it.
"I thought it was just outstanding (on Monday). That’s what he is. Come in, big stuff, pound the strike zone. Go right after them."
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Montgomery admits he’s still adjusting to the new role.
"It’s definitely a little different," he said. "It’s a lot harder to control your adrenaline. You’ve got to get ready quick, and you’ve just got to get the guys out you face."
On Monday, Montgomery said he got "a little amped up" the first time he began warming in the bullpen. Circumstances permitted him to sit a few minutes and collect himself. When he got back up, he felt more under control.
He then retired six of seven of seven batters, including four by strikeout. A good first step.
"I think I can get the job done, for sure," he said. "I feel comfortable. I’ve done it for a month now. Coming in for one inning, or a few innings, you know you can let it go a little more."
Losing a game when allowing just one hit, as the Mariners did Monday in the season opener, is rare but far from unprecedented. It’s happened 73 times since 1913, which is as far back as www.baseball-reference.com tracks games.
It happened once last season, on May 23 when Oakland suffered a 2-0 loss to the Angels in Anaheim. It happened four times the previous year.
But it had never happened to the Mariners in their 40-year history before Monday, when Prince Fielder’s bloop single as Texas’ only hit in a 3-2 victory in the season opener.
The Mariners have, however, won three games when getting only one hit, including one against the Rangers. That occurred Aug. 15, 1989 at the Kingdome when Harold Reynolds’ leadoff single in the sixth inning fueled a 2-0 victory.
Reynolds’ single came against Texas knuckleballer Charlie Hough, who walked five and threw a key wild pitch. Brian Holman and Mike Schooler gave up a combined 13 hits but recorded a shutout.
The other occasions:
***April 27, 2002: Desi Relaford had a one-out RBI single against Ted Lilly in the eighth inning in a 1-0 victory over the New York Yankees at Safeco Field. Freddy Garcia and Kazuhiro Sasaki combined on a five-hit shutout.
***July 20, 2013: Michael Saunders’ two-run double was the only hit in a 4-2 victory over the Astros in Houston. Hisashi Iwakuma gave up two runs and seven hits in seven innings before Charlie Furbush and Tom Wilhelmsen closed it out.
SHADES OF GRAY
When food poisoning knocked Oakland ace Sonny Gray out of his scheduled start Monday in the Athletics’ season opener, the ripple effect provided a benefit to the Mariners.
Gray is now scheduled to make his season debut Wednesday against the Chicago White Sox. If that holds, he won’t pitch this weekend when the Athletics make a three-game stop at Safeco Field.
The Athletics list Jesse Hahn, Rich Hill and Chris Bassitt as their three projected starters. Gray is 4-1 with a 2.14 in nine career starts against the Mariners.
The international district in Seattle, as it turns out, has shifted locations by a few blocks. It’s now centered at Safeco Field.
The Mariners have 13 foreign-born players on their opening-day roster, which tops all 30 clubs, according to statistics compiled by Major League Baseball. Kansas City ranks second with 11.
In all, MLB cited 238 players on opening-day rosters who were born outside of the United States. The count consists of players on 25-man active playing rosters and the major-league disabled list.
The Mariners have players from five foreign countries:
*Dominican Republic (5): pitcher Joaquin Benoit, second baseman Robinson Cano, designated hitter Nelson Cruz, shortstop Ketel Marte and pitcher Joel Peralta.
*Venezuela (4): outfielder Franklin Gutierrez, pitcher Felix Hernandez, infielder Luis Sardinas and catcher Jesus Sucre.
*Japan (2): outfielder Nori Aoki and pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma.
*Cuba (1): outfielder Leonys Martin.
*South Korea (1): first baseman Dae-Ho Lee.
It was 39 years ago Wednesday — April 6, 1977 — that the Mariners played their first game in history and, while they drew a crowd of 57,762 to the Kingdome, it didn’t go well. They lost to the California Angels 7-0.
Part of the lore from that first game is future Hall of Fame broadcaster Dave Niehaus nearly missed calling the first pitch because he was getting a drink for his former boss, Angels owner Gene Autry.
The Mariners complete their three-game series against the Rangers at 11:05 a.m. Pacific time Wednesday at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas.
Left-hander Wade Miley (11-11, 4.46 ERA in 2015 with Boston) makes his debut for the Mariners when he faces Texas right-hander Colby Lewis (17-9, 4.66). The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest and heard on 710 ESPN.
After an open date Thursday, the Mariners open their home season at 7:10 p.m. Friday with the first of three weekend games against Oakland at Safeco Field.
The Mariners list Taijuan Walker, Nathan Karns and Felix Hernandez as their starting pitchers for the three games against the Athletics.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners