Kevin Millwood is Here To Help

Jesus Montero is not yet a good defensive catcher. Scouts from all corners of the glove derided the former Yankees prospect’s defensive abilities, most figuring him for a career as a designated hitter. Before trading Montero to the Mariners for now-injured right handed pitcher Michael Pineda, the Yankees gave Montero just three starts behind the plate during his eighteen game September callup.

Montero is still figuring things out behind the plate but his new team, the Mariners, are determined to give him a chance to call some games. Last night in Seattle, Montero got the start against the Tigers with veteran innings-eater Kevin Millwood on the hill. Millwood is off to a terrible start this season but his steady veteran hand can help Jesus Montero learn the ins and outs of calling a game. One would assume, anyway.

With five runs allowed already to his name, Millwood opened the fifth inning with a walk, a loud line out and a hit to the meat of the Tigers order. Facing runners on first and second, Montero and Millwood switch the “secondary signs” to avoid the runner on second base tipping off the batter as to what pitches are coming. Pretty standard practice.

Catchers use elaborate signs with an indicator call which identifies the next signals as the one calling the pitch. Teams employ more than one set of signals to keep from having their signs stolen by eagle-eyed opposition. It can be confusing to those of us on the outside of the game, especially if we don’t know the indicator.

Montero and Millwood could not get together on the sign with Jhonny Peralta at the plate. After some long, vacant stares in from Millwood, Peralta stepped out. Then Millwood stepped off and asked for Montero to run the signs again. To no avail. Finally, Montero called time and dashed out to the mound to communicate what pitch he wanted directly to Millwood. The veteran made his “presence” felt on the mound, making it very clear to Montero how the whole episode made him feel.

Utter disdain. Nothing more, nothing less. Millwood didn’t offer a conciliatory buttslap or anything more than “fastball.” Montero turned and trotted back to his spot behind the dish while Millwood offered his best Roger Murtaugh impression.

Maybe I’m being overly critical here. Millwood is in the, ahem, twilight of his big league career, trudging through another brutal start. But this looks to be like “showing up a teammate” in front of the home fans. That always seems like a faux pas in my reading of the Unwritten Rules.

Millwood might be on his way out of baseball and Jesus Montero just beginning a great career as a slugger. That doesn’t mean Millwood should go out of his way to make his young catcher look like a fool. Maybe I’m just getting soft in my old age.