ARLINGTON -- After all the questions about his defensive abilities, rookie catcher Jesus Montero had a solid showing in his first game behind the plate Wednesday for the Mariners in their come-from-behind 4-3 victory over the Rangers.
Montero, 22, was regarded as one of baseball's premier hitting prospects coming up with the Yankees, but some baseball people questioned whether he'd ever be an everyday starting catcher after Seattle acquired him by trade for Michael Pineda. But after playing strictly at designated hitter in Seattle's first six games, the 6-foot-3 youngster handled himself well in his catching debut.
"I thought he did a great job," said Mariners manager Eric Wedge, himself a former backstop. "I think anybody watching the game saw a young man back there that caught a great ballgame. He handled [Kevin] Millwood good, handled the bullpen very well. He blocked the ball well, called a good game, received well. I was really impressed with him behind the plate."
The Rangers stole one base on Montero, but he blocked several of Millwood's pitches in the dirt and handled everything thrown at him defensively. Then he delivered a critical sacrifice fly as Seattle scored three runs in the top of the ninth for the winning rally.
"I was very happy to be behind the plate," Montero said. "I did my best. I was hustling back there to help Millwood and the other pitchers, too. I was blocking balls, trying to keep it in front of me. We did a good job together."
Millwood, 37, said he let Montero know what he wanted to throw in different situations, but said the youngster stayed on the same page with him.
"He did well," said Millwood, who threw six innings of one-run ball in his Mariners debut. "We talked a little before about what was going on and what I wanted to do. He went along with it pretty well and it was pretty seamless for me."
Montero extended his hitting streak to five games with a 1-for-3 night, his average at .286, and he was back at designated hitter in Thursday's series finale with veteran Miguel Olivo remaining the regular starter behind the plate.
But Wedge said Montero's day will come and that all the preconceived notions about his defensive liabilities seem far off base.
"I don't know where it comes from," said Wedge. "It's like anything else in today's social media. Something starts and it takes on a life of its own. This guy has done a solid job all spring. He does nothing but continue to get better and he just turned 22.
"I've been very specific and confident in the fact I believe this guy is very capable of being an everyday catcher at some point in time, but there's no reason to rush him. He's still breaking into the big leagues, going through a lot of things each and every day for the first time, and he's right on track. I've been very pleased."
Luetge makes just one mistake in win
ARLINGTON -- After rookie reliever Lucas Luetge picked up his first Major League victory with 1 1/3 innings of shutout relief in the Mariners' 4-3 comeback victory over Texas on Wednesday, he was surrounded by family members outside the visiting clubhouse at Rangers Ballpark.
But one critical person was missing. Luetge's wife, Lacie, his high school sweetheart from Bellville High in southeast Texas, had driven home to Houston earlier in the day at his insistence and missed his historic moment.
"My wife is going to kill me," Luetge, 25, said with a grin. "I made her go home because she's flying to meet us in Seattle [on Thursday] and I didn't want her driving at night. She's going to be tearing my ear up when I get on the phone."
But Luetge's parents and in-laws and grandparents -- who live in Industry, Texas (population 300) were all in attendance and thrilled to see his shining moment as he struck out sluggers Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz, while giving up only a single to Michael Young in putting the Mariners in position for their come-from-behind win.
"It was exciting because I knew I was in the situation to get the win and for the team to win," he said. "To come back like that was just really intense. It's what you dream of, to get a win and be in the box score with a 'W' beside your name."
Manager Eric Wedge was pleased the youngster who not only got the lefty Hamilton for the final out in the seventh after Steve Delabar surrendered a pair of home runs, but then got right-handers Adrian Beltre and Cruz in his following inning as well.
"It was big for him to push his way through that eighth inning, right in the heart of their lineup," said Wedge. "Not just getting Hamilton, but for him to run through those right-handers, pretty impressive performance."
Wedge rearranges lineup behind Vargas
ARLINGTON -- Mariners manager Eric Wedge juggled his lineup a bit for Thursday's series finale against the Rangers, giving rookie Alex Liddi his first start at third base and Casper Wells his debut in left field.
The two right-handed hitters replaced lefties Dustin Ackley and Michael Saunders, as the two were given a day off against Texas southpaw Derek Holland.
"I planned on doing that from the start of the season against the left-hander," said Wedge. "You've got to play your guys. We've got to get them in there, so this has been the plan all along and I'm looking forward to watching them play. Holland has given us fits here in a short period of time he's been up. Hopefully these guys will help us win a ballgame today."
Holland is 3-0 with 5-1 with a 3.17 ERA in 10 games (six starts) against the Mariners, including 3-0 with a 2.77 ERA in four starts last year.
Ackley and Saunders are facing some "normal leg soreness" from getting back into the grind of playing every day, Wedge said, so they can use the day to rest before Seattle opens its home season Friday against the A's.
Ackley has also been getting back to full speed after missing three days with illness when the team returned from Japan.
"I think he's still working his way back from that," Wedge said. "He's fine, but as I said when it happened, I don't think he had six pounds to lose. But he's OK."
The whole team is ready to get back to Seattle, having been on the road now since Spring Training opened on Feb. 10 in Peoria, Ariz.
"I just have to remember how to get home. It's been two-and-a-half months," said Wedge, who keeps his home on Mercer Island, Wash. "I'm sure everybody is ready to get home. It's been an interesting spring, no doubt about that."
• When the Mariners scored three runs in the top of the ninth on Wednesday to wipe out a 3-1 deficit to the Rangers, it was the first time since April 10, 2010 they'd come from that far back in the final at-bat to win on the road.
• Apparently April 11 is a good day for comebacks. Wednesday's three-run burst in the ninth inning came exactly one year after Seattle overcame a 7-0 deficit by scoring eight runs in the final three innings for an 8-7 victory over Toronto at Safeco Field.
• The Safeco Field gates open at 4:40 p.m. Friday for Opening Night, with pre-game festivities beginning at 6:30 p.m. Former Mariner center fielder Mike Cameron will throw out the ceremonial first pitch. Anna Graceman, a 12-year-old from Juneau, Alaska, will sing the National Anthem. Graceman was a finalist on America's Got Talent.
The annual run-around-the-bases kickoff moment will be made by Make-A-Wish recipient Olivia Hanstad of Mt. Vernon, Wash.
• Kevin Millwood on Wednesday became the first starter to allow one or fewer runs, pitch six or more innings and strike out seven or more batters in his Mariners debut since Cliff Lee on April 30, 2010 against the Rangers.
• Outfielder Carlos Peguero had surgery in Seattle on Thursday morning to repair the torn medial meniscus in his left knee injured while rounding second base in a game on Saturday for Triple-A Tacoma. Peguero is expected to return in 4-6 weeks.