Olivo starting at catcher tonight; Liddi in LF again
Miguel Olivo is back with the Mariners today — and right back in the lineup — as Eric Wedge has the veteran penciled in as the starting catcher for tonight’s 7:10 p.m. series opener against the Angels at Safeco Field.
Yeah, I know Olivo has been a lightning rod for fan criticism this season, but this is a common-sense move given that Montero can’t catch every day and John Jaso has been sore for a couple days now after taking a foul ball off his right shoulder in the ninth inning of Monday’s game.
We’ll see what Wedge says later this afternoon when he chats with the media pregame, but it’s been clear for a week now that Olivo would return shortly and that Montero isn’t ready to catch every game. He started behind the plate Tuesday night and Wednesday afternoon, but will be at DH tonight.
Wedge is sticking with Alex Liddi in the No. 2 spot and playing left field for a second straight day, even against Angels right-hander Dan Haren. Clearly Wedge is serious about getting Liddi more time and it didn’t hurt when he doubled and then hit the crucial grand slam in Wednesday’s 5-3 win over the Rangers.
But he did misplay a ball into a two-base error in his only fielding opportunity in left field in his second start there, so Wedge is showing some confidence in putting him right back out there tonight.
Mike Carp gets the start at first base as Justin Smoak gets the day off. We’ll see what Wedge says there, but it’s worth noting that Smoak is 1-for-13 with four strikeouts against Haren and hasn’t exactly been streaking this homestand (1-for-11) after heating up on the last road trip.
Jason Vargas is on the hill tonight for Seattle. He’s 3-3 with a 2.39 ERA against the Angels. Vargas generally fares well at Safeco, but hasn’t had much time there this year. He’s made seven of his 10 starts so far on the road. And while he’s been good away from home (5-3, 3.34), he’s been even better at Safeco (2-0, 1.27 ERA). So those are all good indicators for a Mariners team that has won five of its last six and now faces the Angels for the first time this season.
One other quick early note: Franklin Gutierrez is working out again pregame under the watchful eye of trainer Rick Griffin. Wedge has said he’ll remain with the team until flying to Arizona on Sunday to begin getting some time in extended Spring Training before hopefully starting a 20-day Minor League rehab stint.
Here’s the full lineup against Haren (1-5, 4.37):
Dustin Ackley 2B
Alex Liddi LF
Ichiro Suzuki RF
Kyle Seager 3B
Jesus Montero DH
Mike Carp 1B
Miguel Olivo C
Michael Saunders CF
Brendan Ryan SS
Jason Vargas LHP