OAKLAND -- One of the big questions coming into this season for the Mariners was how young Jesus Montero would handle being the everyday catcher, and manager Eric Wedge said Thursday the early signs have been positive.
Montero, 22, caught the Mariners' first three games before getting Thursday off as veteran Kelly Shoppach was called on to work with Brandon Maurer in his Major League debut.
Montero caught 56 games last season, being used more as a designated hitter, but will be the main man behind the plate now that Miguel Olivo and John Jaso are gone. He never caught more than two games in a row last year, so the increased workload will definitely be a change.
"I think he's off to a good start back there," said Wedge, who feels Montero has shown a much better presence working with pitchers and taking a more active role in the last month. "I felt it was important for him to come out and establish himself in the first three games and catch and be back there and go through what he needs to go through and lead back there."
Felix Hernandez praised Montero's work in the Opening Day win and he and Hisashi Iwakuma were seamless in the second game. Third-day starter Joe Saunders didn't seem on the same page as Montero for much of his four-inning struggle on Wednesday, with the two frequently conferring on the mound.
Saunders said the two need to work on preferred pitch selection, but will get better with time.
"I'll have to take him out to dinner to figure it out," said Saunders. "We've got to work on stuff. It was my first time with him, so it's a learning experience. He's learning me and I'm learning him. We'll go to dinner in Chicago."
Saunders acknowledged his own rough outing didn't help.
"It was probably tough to call pitches for me because he didn't know where it was going and I didn't know where it was going sometimes," he said. "So it was tough to get on the same page. But he's a good catcher. We'll figure it out."
Loe getting used to long relief role
OAKLAND -- Kameron Loe was a starting pitcher early in his career with the Rangers, but the big right-hander has been strictly a workhorse setup man the past three seasons with the Brewers. So it was a bit of a different role Wednesday when he was used for three innings of long relief in his Mariners debut.
Loe, 31, never pitched more than 2 1/3 innings in 195 appearances with the Brewers, hitting that mark once late in the season in 2011 and once in his second game with Milwaukee in 2010.
But he went three full frames in Wednesday's 6-2 loss, holding the A's scoreless before giving up two solo homers leading off his last inning.
The 6-foot-8 California native refused to blame the back-to-back bombs by Jed Lowrie and Chris Young on the longer stint, however.
"I felt good the first two innings," said Loe. "Then I threw a changeup that might not have had enough speed for the first one and hung a curveball to Young. Other than that, I felt pretty dang good."
Loe started 38 games for Texas in 2006-07 and has said he'd love to get another shot in a rotation someday, so he's certainly a reasonable candidate if the Mariners need a long man out of the bullpen. Hisashi Iwakuma was the long guy for the initial months last season, but rarely was used in that situation and they don't have anyone specifically defined for that role this year.
Consider Loe the logical candidate, though left-hander Charlie Furbush could also go longer and the rest of the relievers are capable of two innings if needed. With Loe unavailable Thursday, the Mariners will piece things together if rookie starter Brandon Maurer gets in trouble.
"I think that's pretty much the modern-day version of long relief, three innings, quite frankly," manager Eric Wedge said. "That's kind of the way it works out. If we get in trouble today, we'll just have to use more people."
As for Loe?
"The way he worked through those first two innings, he was in good shape going out for the third," Wedge said. "He just left a couple pitches up. But that's something he's going to need to do for us, and I thought he threw the ball well. Then we wanted to get Furbush out there and get him back on track a little bit. Obviously, he was erratic, but I thought he reeled it in there at the end, which is important."
Wedge eager to get players in games early on
OAKLAND -- Like most managers, Eric Wedge likes to get all his players into games early in the season to keep them sharp. With Kelly Shoppach getting the call at catcher on Thursday, all the position players have now received a start.
Lefty specialist Lucas Luetge was the last reliever to get into action, pitching the eighth inning in Thursday's 8-2 loss. So the only player on the 25-man roster yet to see action is Blake Beavan, who makes the start Friday against the White Sox in Chicago.
Shortstop Brendan Ryan and designated hitter Kendrys Morales got the day off Thursday, with Robert Andino playing for Ryan and Raul Ibanez taking the DH duties.
"Day game after a night game, Brendan had played three games in a row," Wedge said. "No different than Morales. Early on in the season here, we're playing a long stretch of games. Coming out of Spring Training, we've got to be careful with these guys.
"It's my job more so than anybody to make sure we look at the big picture -- 162 -- and make sure we get these guys working into it appropriately so they can be as strong as they need to be as quickly as they can be. That's the early challenge with getting a team where it needs to be.
"You don't want them too far removed from Spring Training because you can lose it quickly in this game. It's tough to stay sharp. A day off is a big deal in this game and when you have multiple days off, it will add up in a hurry. So we want to make sure we keep their edge."
Wedge isn't alone in that tactic. A's manager Bob Melvin had started each of his bench players by Wednesday.
• The Mariners didn't commit an error in their first three games, the first time since 2009 when they started a season with that many error-free games. The team didn't commit a fielding error until the fifth game that season.
• Tickets are still available for Monday's home opener at Safeco Field, when the Mariners take on the Astros at 7:10 p.m. PT.
• The Pacific Coast League announced Thursday that former Mariners star Edgar Martinez is one of three players who'll be inducted into the PCL Hall of Fame in its 2013 class. Martinez hit .344 in four years with Calgary in the PCL from 1985-89, including .363 in 1988. The other two inductees are Sandy Alomar Jr. and George Metkovich.