The odd-man out when the Mariners, finally, needed to add a fifth starting pitcher to their roster?
That was utility player Taylor Motter on Tuesday. Despite his promising play, Motter was optioned to make room for left-hander Ariel Miranda from Triple-A Tacoma.
Motter’s home run was one of two hits on Sunday against dealing Athletics left-hander Sean Manaea. And Motter went 2-for-3 on Monday when the Mariners had six hits against Astros left-hander Dallas Keuchel.
But it doesn’t feel like Motter, his long hair and black PF Flyers will be in Tacoma for all that long. He didn’t start the season with the Mariners like their other utility player, veteran Andrew Romine, yet Motter has appeared in more games (six) and has more at-bats (12) that Romine (two games, four at-bats).
“He understands where he’s at right now organizationally,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “He knows he’ll be back at some point to help us. He’s just so versatile.”
Romine is out of minor-league options, and Motter isn’t. So the Mariners avoid having to send Romine through waivers when he’s flexible enough to play all nine positions, like he did in one game last year for the Tigers. So the Mariners don't burn an asset less than three weeks into the season.
But at least Dee Gordon doesn’t have to see Motter’s shoes next to his locker for a little while.
Motter spoke recently about the obvious inspiration behind his PF Flyers.
“If you didn’t watch ‘The Sandlot’ you weren’t a baseball rat,” Motter said. “I think everyone in my era in the late '80s, early '90s, kind of had to love it.”
And this year is the 25th anniversary of the movie’s release in 1993, featuring “Benny ‘The Jet’ Rodriguez” wearing his PF Flyers while harboring a Babe Ruth-signed baseball. Motter said his favorite baseball movies are “The Sandlot” and “Bull Durham” in that order.
He said he's got another pair out to get painted and customized with Sandlot quotes and he's hoping to get those returned soon. Though he wouldn’t say whether the shoes actually make him run faster and jump higher.
“I’m not going to put that out there, but they’re definitely comfortable,” Motter said.
“Liar!” a voice rang from the clubhouse.
“Dude! They are,” Motter answered.
Motter said he was at the New Balance in Boston last year when he first heard his version of the shoes were going to be released.
“I said, ‘Put me down on the list. I want to get them first,’” Motter said.
“I just like them. They’re cool-looking cleats.”
Gordon’s locker is next to Motter’s. He felt a need to step in.
“They’re terrible,” Gordon interrupted. He later said his favorite baseball movie is "Hardball."
“His words,” Motter said.
You can’t argue much with the results so far.
Motter was recalled when Nelson Cruz first went to the disabled list and he had stayed even when Cruz returned. He even pitched an inning (with a strikeout, but he also allowed a home run) against the Royals.
“It’s tough to produce offensively in that (utility) role because it’s hodgepodge with your playing time and there’s no set rhythm,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “Both of those guys are very adequate or above-average at almost any position you put them at on the field. They are very sure-handed. Taylor has had a little more power, a little more thump in the bat and Romine is more contact guy. But similar skill-set defensively.
“But their personalities are quite a bit different. Taylor has more hair.”
Yes, Motter’s hair. He had fans in a frenzy when he posted an ominous picture on Twitter of some of his strands of hair on a barber shop floor.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Can’t remember the last time I’ve been here. Getting clean for Spring training <a href="https://t.co/HhtcKHjKdA">pic.twitter.com/HhtcKHjKdA</a></p>— Taylor Motter (@taylormotter7) <a href="https://twitter.com/taylormotter7/status/962067743338934272?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">February 9, 2018</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
But his shoes have seemed to strike an equal chord.
“I didn’t think it was going to be that big,” Motter said. “I showed the guys in the clubhouse and they thought it was pretty cool and I wore them that game.
“Then I come back to my phone afterward and it had just blown up. It was more than I thought it was going to be, for sure.”
The Mariners enter the third of their four-game series with the Astros with right-hander Mike Leake (2-0, 3.50 ERA) on the mound for his fourth start, facing red-hot RHP Gerrit Cole (1-0, 1.29 ERA).
Game starts at 7:10 p.m. Wednesday at Safeco Field and will be televised on Root Sports and broadcast on 710-AM radio.