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."
Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.