HOUSTON -- Jesus Montero has been reinstated from Triple-A Tacoma's disabled list and resumed playing for the Rainiers, going 1-for-5 with a triple in his first game back on Thursday before sitting out Friday in Fresno.
The plan for Montero is to play designated hitter and first base the remainder of the season as he returns from surgery on a torn meniscus in his right knee. After starting the season as the Mariners primary catcher, he was headed for a position transition even before his surgery.
Now he'll skip catching completely, with the Mariners hoping he can regain the offensive prowess that made him one of baseball's top hitting prospects when he was acquired from the Yankees two years ago.
"We just want him to find his swing," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. "We are not asking him to catch any more this year. It's going to be first base and DH. So just be more consistent offensively. We know what his upside is and we know what he is capable of doing. We want him to go to the ballpark each and every day and look to be better offensively.
"He's been through a lot this year. It's all part of developing as a human being, as a man, as a baseball player. It's very rarely an easy trail. I'm sure he understands that more than he did before."
Montero, 23, hit .260 with 15 home runs and 62 RBIs last year in 135 games for Seattle, but was batting just .208 with three homers and nine RBIs in 29 games when he was demoted in May this year. In eight games with Tacoma, he's hit .242 with no home runs and three RBIs.
Miller providing surprising source of production
HOUSTON -- Brad Miller has quickly established himself as a productive leadoff hitter for the Mariners, who have gone 10-5 with the 23-year-old shortstop in the lineup and 7-4 with him batting first.
But one surprising aspect of his new role has been his RBI production from that spot. Miller went 3-for-5 with five RBIs in Friday's 10-7 win over the Astros. In just 17 Major League starts, he's already had two games with four-plus RBIs.
How rare is that early production? Miller is the first Mariner ever to chalk up two four-plus RBI games in the first 17 games of his career and just the 22nd player in MLB history, joining Dodgers phenom Yasiel Puig as the only players to do so this season.
Miller has 12 RBIs going into Saturday's game against the Astros, the second-most in club history for a player in the first 17 games of his career. Alvin Davis had 17 in his first 17 games in 1984.
"Leading off the game, obviously I just want to get on," he said. "In the situation where there are guys out there, definitely the biggest thing we learned is you've got to keep hitting. You've got to get ahead and step on their throats when you get a lead. That was big, just kind of keep gaining on the momentum. Every inning trying to answer back."
Miller figures to be primarily a line-drive, gap hitter, but he crushed his first career home run in the sixth inning Friday, then hit his second in his next at-bat in the eighth.
"I think it was 2-0 count. I was just looking for anything to hit hard," he said of his first bomb, a two-run shot off Bud Norris into the upper deck in right field. "I didn't like the first two pitches. He threw one in there and it felt pretty good, it felt really good. It felt pure. And I kind of blacked out there for a little bit."
His second homer was a three-run pop in the eighth off reliever Josh Fields that just cleared the right-field fence.
"I was just trying to stay alive," Miller said. "It was a 3-2 count and he was throwing me everything and I was just trying to battle. I didn't see it originally off the bat. And then I saw [Justin] Maxwell turn. And I was like, 'Gosh, he's like 7 feet tall, he's about to do something.' He was sizing up the wall. And I was like, 'Just go, just push.' And luckily it was just out of his reach."
Miller said he got both home run balls back and gave them to his parents, who came from Florida to attend the series in Houston.
Zunino's patience starting to pay off
HOUSTON -- Mike Zunino's primary responsibility as a rookie catcher is working with Mariners pitchers. But he also takes pride in working opposing pitchers, and he did so in grand fashion Friday when he forced three walks and scored three runs in Seattle's 10-7 victory over the Astros.
Zunino had walked just four times in his first 24 games in the Majors, but he nearly doubled that in three straight at-bats on Friday.
"You've just got to be patient and pick the pitches you want to look for and stick with that," said the 23-year-old from Florida. "Obviously, it's easy to get too aggressive, but you just have to stick to your approach and wait for that one pitch."
Zunino has been seeing a lot of off-speed offerings, particularly with two strikes, but is learning to lay off those pitches when possible.
"For the past week or so, that's what I've seen mostly," he said. "So I've got to still hunt the fastball, but hopefully see breaking balls up in the zone and be able to hit them to right field.
"It's one of those things where obviously scouting reports get out and guys spend a lot of time on that. But I need to make the adjustment, too. I'm sort of being patient early in the count and working myself into hitter's counts."
• Outfielder Michael Morse will work out for Mariners trainers Monday when the team returns to Seattle and the hope is he'll then be cleared to begin a Minor League rehab assignment as he recovers from a strained hamstring that has sidelined him since June 21.
• Franklin Gutierrez will play primarily right field and designated hitter as he works through his own rehab stint in Tacoma, manager Eric Wedge said. Gutierrez just began his latest rehab stint as he continues dealing with a hamstring issue.
• Top Mariners pitching prospect Taijuan Walker allowed one run on three hits in five innings Friday in Fresno, getting a no-decision in Triple-A Tacoma's 3-2 loss. Walker, 20, is 2-0 with a 0.86 ERA in four starts since being promoted.
• Kyle Seager leads the Mariners in hits (107) and is tied with Justin Smoak for the most walks (36) going into Saturday's game. Seattle hasn't had one player lead the team in both hits and walks in the same season since Edgar Martinez in 1995.