Montero has been scuffling at the plate. He has just two hits in his past 35 at-bats.

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HOUSTON — The Mariners made a quiet roster move after Tuesday night’s 7-5 win over the Astros. First baseman/DH Jesus Montero was optioned to Class AAA Tacoma.

Why make this move with the expanded rosters?

“It was an opportunity to get him some at-bats over the next six days and kind of sharpen him back up,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “When he comes back, he’ll have a better chance of helping us win ballgames. He hasn’t played consistently. We had that little stretch of lefties where he played, but now he’s been sitting for a little bit and he’s gotten a little rusty.”

With Mark Trumbo producing at the plate and Logan Morrison starting to swing the bat better — both players are also under club control for next season — Montero had seen his playing time decrease. By going to Tacoma for the remaining for six games of the Rainiers’ season, he’ll be able to play every day.

“It was strictly a baseball decision to get him more a-bats,” McClendon said. “It’s a smart decision.”

Montero has been scuffling at the plate. He has just two hits in his past 35 at-bats.

Beyond the immediate, there is some concern about the fundamentals of Montero’s swing, particularly the large dip of the head of the bat as he initiates his swing. That unnecessary movement slows down everything and leaves him behind on pitchers with quality fastballs. By instinct, Montero has to “cheat” on the fastball, starting the swing early.

Pitchers recognize it and counter by throwing breaking stuff away when they are ahead.

Why didn’t it affect him at Class AAA, where he hit .346 with 17 doubles, 6 triples, 16 home runs and 75 RBI with a .938 OPS? There is a lack of outstanding fastballs in the Pacific Coast League.

Montero’s future with the organization is uncertain. He is out of options after this season, meaning he will have to make the 25-man roster out of spring or be designated for assignment.


• With an off day on Thursday, McClendon made a minor adjustment to his projected starters for the series against Oakland, pushing Hisashi Iwakuma back to Sunday and moving Felix Hernandez to Saturday. Lefty Edgar Olmos will make his second start on Friday. Meanwhile, Vidal Nuno, who made a spot start for Hernandez, will return to the bullpen and be ready for the series in Oakland.

Why the change?

“It’s just to get (Iwakuma) a couple extra days of rest,” McClendon said.

The rotation will continue to be adjusted with the return of lefty James Paxton looming and an innings limit of right-hander Taijuan Walker approaching.

McClendon has said that he plans to skip at least one of Walker’s starts going forward, but still hasn’t determined which one. Barring an injury, Paxton’s last rehab start was scheduled to come Wednesday night in Salt Lake City.

“If he’s healthy, he’s going to be in the rotation when he comes back,” McClendon said. “That’s a given.”

The probables:

Friday at Oakland: Edgar Olmos (LHP) vs. Aaron Brooks (RHP)

Saturday at Oakland: Felix Hernandez (RHP) vs. Jesse Chavez (RHP)

Sunday at Oakland: Hisashi Iwakuma (RHP) vs. Felix Doubront (LHP)