Olivo welcomes Montero's big bat to team
Young catcher may mean loss of playing time for veteran
SEATTLE -- Even as newest Mariners sensation Jesus Montero drew much of the attention at his first FanFest on Saturday, veteran Miguel Olivo made it clear he's happy to have the talented young catcher as his new teammate.
Olivo figures to lose playing time to the highly regarded 22-year-old, who was acquired last week from the Yankees in a trade for Michael Pineda. But if it means winning more games, it's all good with the man who led the Mariners with 19 home runs and 62 RBIs last season.
"It didn't surprise me," said Olivo, entering the final season of a two-year, $7 million contract. "You're competing every day in baseball. He's a good hitter and we need that. I hear he's going to be DH and catching and I'll be doing more of the catching, but I'm not looking at it that way. I'm just looking that he's coming to help the team."
Manager Eric Wedge says Olivo remains the No. 1 catcher going into camp, but he'll try to find ways to get Montero at-bats nearly every game at either catcher or designated hitter. And that means Olivo certainly won't come close to the career-high 130 games and 477 at-bats he accumulated last year, if things go as expected.
Wedge, himself a former catcher, notes the position takes time to learn and plans to let the youngster develop gradually into an increased role behind the plate.
That means Olivo and John Jaso, who was acquired earlier in the offseason in a trade with Tampa Bay, remain part of the equation. Olivo, a 10-year Major League veteran, welcomes the chance to work as a mentor and says he can learn from the youngster as well.
"I talked to him a couple minutes ago and he said he'd be next to me all the time," Olivo said. "I told him he's welcome to come and I'll help him with everything I've learned in baseball. I told him, 'The days you catch, I'll be looking at you to see what you're doing wrong. And the days you hit, maybe I'll learn something about hitting from you.' We can go back and forth."
Montero was one of the big attractions on the first day of FanFest, which concludes Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Safeco Field. He'll soak up the situation again Sunday, then fly home to Venezuela for 10 days before reporting to Spring Training on Feb. 10 in Peoria, Ariz.
"It's been great," said the youngster. "This is the first time doing this in my career. It's good to see people and let them get to know us. I feel happy about it. It seems like they love me here and I haven't even played yet. But it seems fun."
Olivo remembers being promoted to the White Sox's 40-man roster for the first time when he was 22. He made his Major League debut at 23, playing six games with Chicago, before getting his first full-time shot a year later.
"I had guys like Sandy Alomar Jr. and Pudge Rodriguez helping me out," Olivo recalled. "Now he's going to have me to teach him some of the things I learned from the older people. It's hard, but I had a lot of people help me out. Maybe that's why I am what I am right now, because I listened to them. If he listens to people that know about catching, he can be one of the top catchers in the league."
Olivo hit .224 last season with a .253 on-base percentage and the Mariners would like to see better production from that spot, which Montero is certainly capable of providing if he lives up to the high expectations.
But calling a game, working with pitchers, keeping base runners in check and being tough enough and strong enough to catch night after night are traits that need to be developed. And the durable Olivo, who says he's in the best shape of his life after an offseason of working out at his home in Modesto, Calif., doesn't have an issue with helping a young prodigy learn that craft.
"For me, I'm a teammate guy," he said. "If the team is going to be better like that when he's catching or when I'm catching and he's playing DH, I just want to win games. I want everybody to be happy. Montero is a young kid and has a lot of things to learn, but he will learn. Because he's got Roger Hansen and a lot of people who are going to help him.
"I'm happy that he's here and happy we're going to get more runs and help the team. I can't wait for the season to start."