PEORIA, Ariz. -- Through five games and 14 at-bats entering Monday, Mariners catcher Jesus Montero has started his spring as hot as anybody, totaling seven hits including four for extra bases. According to manager Eric Wedge, however, one of his plate appearances so far stands above the rest.
Facing Rangers right-hander Justin Grimm on Sunday, Montero battled through an eight-pitch at-bat before launching a home run to center field. He faced two strikes early in the count, but fought off four straight foul balls to get the pitch he wanted.
"That's the way he needs to play," Wedge said. "He's sticking his nose in there offensively and battling through ABs. That at-bat he had is probably the best at-bat I've ever seen him have. Against a guy throwing pretty good with good stuff. He ended up winning it in the end, and winning it in a big way."
Wedge has liked Montero's start to the spring defensively as well.
"You talk about the position that he's playing and the responsibilities and priorities that go along with that," Wedge said. "He's right in the middle of understanding it."
The 23-year-old hit .260 last season in 135 games for the Mariners while throwing out just 11 of 65 on the bases.
Strained hip flexor sidelines Mariners' Hultzen
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Scheduled to make his third appearance of the spring Monday, Mariners pitching prospect Danny Hultzen was scratched from his outing because of a mild right hip flexor strain.
The club doesn't have a specific timetable for the 23-year-old's return to game action, but the injury isn't considered serious.
Hultzen will undergo treatment over the next few days and plans to begin playing catch again on Tuesday.
"I'm not worried about it at all," he said. "I'll be back out maybe tomorrow to throw a little bit to see how it feels. It's not a sharp pain, but it does inhibit the way I run and throw."
The injury first occured Saturday during conditioning drills, then got worse through additional workouts until the lefty told staff members what he was feeling.
"Nothing felt bad instantly, it didn't pop or anything like that, but after we ran, it started to feel sore and it got worse and worse," he said. "I tried to run yesterday, and it didn't feel good. Then I felt it while I was throwing a little bit, so I just went and said I felt a little tight. We did some tests then and found there was something."
Once Hultzen is back to participating in normal baseball activies, he will throw a bullpen session. After that, however, the schedule is unknown.
Hultzen originally thought about pitching through the discomfort, but this early in camp, he decided not to take any chances.
"It's tough to tell someone you're feeling something, but it's the smart thing to do; get it treated, rest a little bit and get back at it in a few days," he said. "I've seen guys try to toughen up and work their way through and only end up making it worse. I didn't want to be that guy."
Hultzen, the club's No. 2 prospect according to MLB.com, has pitched three scoreless innings this spring, striking out six batters and allowing just one hit.
Last season with Double-A Jackson and Triple-A Tacoma, Hultzen combined for a 3.05 ERA over 124 innings while striking out 136 batters.
Garland throws two scoreless; Walker struggles
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Still making adjustments early on in Spring Training, Mariners pitchers Jon Garland and Taijuan Walker took the mound Monday against the Rockies with the veteran tossing a couple clean frames and the young prospect struggling a bit.
Garland, who hasn't pitched in the Majors since 2011 due to multiple shoulder injuries, lasted two innings on Monday, giving up two hits and two walks while striking out a batter. He threw 32 pitches, 17 for strikes.
"My arm is feeling good," Garland said. "I was upset with my walks, because you're just giving them an opportunity to start something, but I was able to work quick to the plate and keep the ball on the ground, so I can't be too upset."
A non-roster invitee to Mariners camp, Garland is trying to win a back-end spot in Seattle's rotation. Counting Monday's effort, the 33-year-old now has three scoreless innings under his belt.
Garland added he's beginning to feel more relaxed on the mound even though the dry air in Arizona is affecting the movement on his pitches.
"Every time I'm out there, I feel more comfortable," he said. "It's just hard to get a true feel out here, though. The air affects everything out here, you have a tougher time gripping the ball and the ball in the hand feels different."
After Garland exited the game, Walker took over in the third and pitched two frames.
In his first two outings, the Mariners' No. 1 prospect threw three scoreless innings, allowing just one hit in the process. On Monday, however, Walker fought with his command.
Walking three batters and serving up four hits, the 20-year-old allowed three earned runs, including one coming off a home run from Nolan Arenado.
"I just wasn't locating my fastball, wasn't putting it where I wanted to, and so I was behind in the counts," Walker said. "I have to keep working ahead and get my offspeed over for strikes, too."
Walker threw 42 pitches, 22 for strikes.
Tyler Emerick is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.