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Pineda-Montero trade might be 1-sided, but maybe not the way you thought

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Mariners people here recall Michael Pineda throwing 97 mph last spring, 99 mph at times during the season and even hitting 100 mph on occasion in the minors, so that doesn't sound like the same pitcher the Yankees are seeing this spring, the fellow with the pedestrian radar-gun readings around 90 mph and slight paunch. Meanwhile, the Mariners may have a hitting dynamo on their hands in Jesus Montero, who could make the Yankees regret perhaps the most interesting trade of the winter, the one that sent one monster young talent for another.

"We're real happy with what we negotiatied, and they'll be happy in the end,'' Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik said.

The big trade of the winter sent Pineda and pitching prospect Jose Campos to the Yankees for Montero and young righthanded pitcher Hector Noesi. And judging by the respective springs of the key young men in the deal -- Pineda and Montero -- so far it's no contest.

While Pineda is struggling to prove he belongs in the Yankees rotation while tipping the scales at a surprising 20 pounds to start spring, Montero basically has been given an everyday job as the No. 5 hitter in the Mariners' mostly young lineup. He will catch games here or there in a three-catcher set where veteran Miguel Olivo will be the starter, but mostly, he'll hit. "He'll get a ton of at-bats,'' Zduriencik promised.

The knock on Montero is that he can't catch, and the Mariners shied away from the Cliff Lee trade two summers ago because they had a top scout or two suggesting he couldn't do it. But now at least one of those scouts says he can, and Mariners people believe he will, if not immediately then eventually. "He's an intelligent kid, but it just takes time at that position to adjust,'' Zduriencik said. "So far I'm pleased.''

Seattle has a lot of catching experience among their coaches and executives, including near Hall of Famer Ted Simmons as a top exec, plus manager Eric Wedge and coach Jeff Datz. "We don't need to rush him,'' Wedge said. "He's a hard worker who wants to be back there. I have a feeling he'll be our regular catcher eventually.''

The other day Montero gunned down veteran basestealer Brandon Phillips of the Reds trying to steal second base. But most of the exploits for now will be with the bat, and to that end he has two home runs -- including one well up on the berm in right-centerfield -- and 10 RBIs. The trade that was widely applauded in New York at first took three weeks to consummate, with Zduriencik and his Yankees counterpart Brian Cashman both reluctant at first to give up the second piece. Zduriencik insisted on a pitcher to replace Pineda in the rotation, and Noesi was named today to Seattle's rotation, and Cashman made sure to pry hard-throwing younger pitcher Jose Campos from the Mariners.

The mystery of the deal so far is Pineda. who looks rather ordinary in Yankees camp, and now may seriously have to fight for a spot in the rotation. Mariners people are shocked to hear the so-so radar readings and say they have no idea how that could be happening while also insisting he'll be fine. And maybe he will.

The mega trade was a bit of shock to the two main parties, both of whom had started to establish themeslves with their original teams. "I was a little surprised. I never thought they were going to trade me,'' Montero said. But he is not disappointed, not in the Yankees ("I can't complain about the Yankees. They were good to me'') or the Mariners. "It's been fun,'' he said. 'I'm here for the opportunity.''

So far he's making the most of it. Neither key man in the big trade has played a game that counts to date, but opinions are already starting to be formed. And so far, the Mariners' end of the trade looks pretty darned good.




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