NEW YORK -- The last time Jesus Montero came to Yankee Stadium, the rookie Mariners catcher was besieged by reporters looking to chronicle his story after being traded to Seattle over the offseason. But on Friday, the 22-year-old was sitting quietly at his locker with few pregame interruptions, a situation he welcomed.
"I feel more comfortable now," Montero said. "The first time we came, it was a little crazy because of the trade and Michael Pineda and all that. I'm a little more relaxed now."
That holds true for Montero's season as a whole. He has established himself as an everyday player with the Mariners -- either at designated hitter or behind the plate -- and was hitting .260 with 10 home runs and 40 RBIs going into Friday's series opener.
Since the All-Star break, Montero has hit .323 and is enjoying his surge at the same time as the club has been playing better ball.
"I feel good," Montero said. "The team is winning. I like that. I'm happy; everybody is doing good. I just want to keep playing and winning every day."
As for facing his former club?
"This is my team now," Montero said, nodding his head around the Mariners' clubhouse. "We're playing the Yankees, yeah, but I don't care anymore. I just want to play my game, play hard and win."
Capps flashes 100-mph heat in big league debut
NEW YORK -- Mariners right-handed reliever Carter Capps didn't pitch in his first two games after being called up from Triple-A Tacoma on Tuesday, but the 21-year-old rookie graced a Major League mound for the first time in Friday's series-opening 6-3 loss to the Yankees, doing so at Yankee Stadium, no less.
In relief of starter Kevin Millwood, Capps opened the bottom of the seventh with the Mariners trailing, 4-1, and reached 100 mph on his first pitch, which was fouled off by Russell Martin. The rookie faced three batters in all, recording one out and allowing two runs on one hit and a walk. Both runs scored after Capps had been relieved by Oliver Perez.
For a youngster who pitched just one game at Triple-A before getting promoted, it's all pretty overwhelming at this point, and his first trip into Yankee Stadium didn't diminish that.
"It was a great experience, obviously," said Capps. "I got to face the Yankees, so that was pretty amazing. They have a bunch of good hitters, so you've just got to pound the zone. ... But I only faced three batters and I had a walk, so I wasn't pounding the zone like I should have been. I didn't get the results I wanted."
Capps admitted it was "discouraging" to have Martin turn around a 101-mph fastball for a single, but he understood.
"It's going to happen if you leave the ball over the plate anywhere, so the speed doesn't really matter," Capps said.
Eric Wedge knew he was putting the youngster into a tough spot, opening his career at Yankee Stadium, but the manager wanted to get both Capps and fellow rookie Stephen Pryor -- the Mariners' eighth- and ninth-best prospects, respectively, according to MLB.com -- into action after they had been promoted from Tacoma on the same day.
"It was a good time to get him in there and get that first one out of the way," Wedge said. "Obviously, you see what kind of stuff he has. But there's only one first time and he got it out of the way -- and he got it out of the way here at Yankee Stadium.
"So good for him, and now he can go out there and settle down a little bit. Pryor hadn't pitched in five days, so I wanted to get him out there, too, and knock the rust off and get his first appearances since he was recalled. So I was glad we were able to do that."
Capps' parents and a college assistant coach flew in from North Carolina for the weekend series. Capps grew up in Kinston, N.C., whose population of 22,000 is about half of Friday's crowd of 45,872 at Yankee Stadium.
Trade whirlwind in past, Ichiro at ease
NEW YORK -- After exchanging handshakes and hellos with some of his former Mariners teammates before Friday's series opener at Yankee Stadium, Ichiro Suzuki said he has adapted quickly to his new situation and team as he's been thrust instantly into a playoff race.
Ichiro again was batting eighth and playing left field for his new club, wearing the No. 31 jersey -- still odd to see -- and still soaking in the largess of the Yankees' home clubhouse where his locker includes a computer that he's yet to use.
The 38-year-old veteran has even changed his long-held policy of not talking to the media before games, a situation he used to refuse because it interrupted his pregame routine. Instead, he exchanged small talk with several Seattle writers in English and then accommodated an interview request through interpreter Allen Turner.
Ichiro seemed happier and looser than he had in a long time while with the Mariners.
"Every day, I'm able to feel the main goal of this team, which is to win," Ichiro said. "As a baseball player who wants to do the best and compete, that just really makes me happy to be a part of that and be able to contribute to that common goal, which is to win."
Ichiro said the baseball adjustment has been easy, but he hasn't quite gotten used to putting on the Yankees pinstripes, or even picturing himself in the famous uniform of his new team.
"There is practically everything in this clubhouse, but there isn't a mirror where I can see my whole body," Ichiro said with a smile. "So I haven't really got to see what I look like."
Other adjustments are more obvious, including playing left field for the first time on a regular basis. Ichiro's only prior game in left was when former manager Lou Piniella played him there on Oct. 22, 2001, in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series at the original Yankee Stadium in order to give Jay Buhner one last start in right field.
"I was very nervous, and obviously on my first day in left, there were some tough hits out there to me," Ichiro said. "But it's one of those things you just have to go through and get used to in game situations."
Ichiro's biggest moment so far in New York came when he hit a home run in Monday's 5-4 loss to the Orioles. It was a momentous shot for the veteran, the 100th of his career, but he'll remember it more for the reaction from Yankees fans.
"I don't know if it was because it was my first home run as a Yankee or because it was my 100th home run, but I don't think I have ever received that kind of ovation from the fans -- that many and that loud," Ichiro said. "Maybe it was the first time in my career I received something that big."
Ichiro said he hasn't had enough time to closely follow the Mariners -- winners of seven straight entering Friday -- since his departure, though he knows they've been playing well. As for playing his former team again so soon?
"The emotions I went through in the first three games that I wore the Yankees uniform, I don't think anything will be bigger than that," Ichiro said. "Obviously, playing this series is a little different than playing other teams at this stage, but it won't be quite like it was in Seattle."
First baseman Justin Smoak went 1-for-2 with two walks on Thursday and was hitting .250 with a .400 on-base percentage after his first 11 games this season with Triple-A Tacoma.
Center fielder Franklin Gutierrez, sidelined since June 29 with a concussion, is working out with Tacoma this week but has not yet started his Minor League rehab assignment. Pitcher Charlie Furbush, out with a strained left biceps, has begun his rehab stint with Tacoma and was expected to throw an inning on Friday night for the Rainiers.
Michael Saunders was given Friday off in order to have back-to-back days of rest for his legs, which have been a little tight recently, according to manager Eric Wedge. But the skipper said that Saunders is fine and would be back in the starting lineup on Saturday.