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Originally published Friday, March 16, 2012 at 9:15 PM

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Mariners catcher Jaso tries first base

And Jaso knows a little versatility never hurts. He's a certainty to make the team, especially with Adam Moore out for a month or so with a broken right wrist.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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PEORIA, Ariz. — One of the newest Mariners, John Jaso, likes to see new sights.

An avid hiker, he has begun making plans for a trip next offseason through some of the high country of Italy and Spain.

For now, the new terrain he's checking out is first base.

Jaso's primary position is catcher. It was pretty much his only one until a month or so ago — the Mariners envisioned him platooning behind the plate this season with Miguel Olivo when they acquired him in November from Tampa Bay for pitcher Josh Lueke.

But a couple months later, the Mariners made another trade to get catcher Jesus Montero from the Yankees.

Shortly after, the team approached Jaso about trying first base. Jaso said he had no trouble complying, and Friday he made his third start of the spring at first base when the Mariners played Oakland in Phoenix.

"The trade happened and as far as I knew I was coming over as a catcher only," said the 28-year-old left-handed hitter. "But they kind of just brought the idea to me just watching me run around, or maybe their ideas on what my role is here on the team kind of changed after different moves were made, and so it kind of made me progress into this."

And Jaso knows a little versatility never hurts. He's a certainty to make the team, especially with Adam Moore out for a month or so with a broken right wrist.

Montero appears to be the team's catcher of the future, so Jaso knows it's to his advantage to show he can handle multiple roles.

With Justin Smoak settled at first, Jaso is being looked at as a possible backup. Mike Carp and Alex Liddi have also seen time at first this spring.

"Utility guy that is a catcher, that's kind of good, you know," he said. "Catcher is still my priority and my primary position, but it definitely does look good to have it (another position) on the résumé, and from a manager's standpoint being able to shift different guys around and make different moves on the roster, it helps. It's definitely a good thing for me to have."

Jaso has played only one major-league game at first, in 2010, and mostly by chance. Jaso recalls that the Devil Rays fell behind big and quickly to the Angels in Anaheim, so manager Joe Maddon decided to empty the bench and moved Jaso from catcher to first for a few innings.

Other than that, he remembers only playing first base for a handful of games in the minors when another first baseman got hurt — the stats show 14 games there in 2004 when he was in the New York-Penn League.

"It's been a pretty good transition so far, a good break for the legs, too," he said. "It gets me at-bats."

Jaso was a key cog in Tampa Bay's run to the 2010 American League East title, hitting .263 as the team's regular catcher.

But his status as a young catcher on the rise dimmed with a disappointing 2011 campaign in which he hit just .224 with a .298 on-base percentage. It didn't help that he battled nagging injuries much of the season. He was on the disabled list for more than a month with a strained oblique.

Jaso says he's healthy now, but won't say that was the entire reason for his struggles last year.

"I think it was just the way it went," he said. "I can't really put blame on one thing except maybe myself not having as good at-bats or whatever. Baseball is always an up-and-down thing and I don't let it get to me — just keep going with the routine."

The numbers might indicate he's still struggling as he entered Friday's game, hitting .091 (1 for 11). But that doesn't include a homer he hit in a B game against the White Sox on Thursday.

"I've always been real slow during spring training, and then the season will hit and it will start picking up," he said. "So it's nothing I'm worried about. I will keep doing my routine and working. But I'm not going to lie — it felt good to get that (home run)."

NOTES

• The Mariners beat the Brewers 6-1 in Tucson on Friday afternoon in their first of two split-squad games. Felix Hernandez appeared in his usual form, allowing just one hit and one walk while striking out six in six scoreless innings. Dustin Ackley had three doubles and Alex Liddi a two-run homer among three hits as the Mariners pounded out 13 hits.

• In their second game of the day, the Mariners were defeated 6-1 by the A's in Phoenix. Mariner starter Hisashi Iwakuma, competing for a spot in the rotation, gave up seven hits and five runs, three earned, in four innings. Four runs came in the first when he wasn't helped by some shaky defense. But he also allowed two hard-hit doubles to Josh Redddick and Manny Ramirez that drove in three of the runs.

Blake Beavan will get his fourth start of the spring in Saturday's 1:05 p.m. game against the White Sox in Glendale, with Jake Peavy going for Chicago. Other Mariners slated to pitch in that game are Lucas Luetge, Tom Wilhelmsen, Hong-Chih Kuo and Oliver Perez.

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @bcondotta.

MARINERS 6, BREWERS 1

Seattle Milwaukee
AB R H BI AB R H BI
Ackley 2b 3 0 3 1 L.Schafer cf 4 0 0 0
S.Romero 2b 1 0 0 0 Farris 2b 4 0 0 0
MKwasaki ss 2 0 0 0 C.Gindl rf 4 0 1 0
B.Miller ss 1 1 0 0 Conrad 1b-3b 4 1 1 0
J.Montero c 2 1 0 0 ZWheeler 3b 0 0 0 0
J.Hicks c 1 0 1 0 Almonte 1b 2 0 0 0
Smoak 1b 2 0 0 0 Maldonado c 3 0 0 1
LBonilla 3b-rf 2 0 1 1 P.Phillips dh 3 0 0 0
Liddi 3b-1b 5 2 3 2 K.Davis lf 3 0 0 0
Saunders cf 3 1 1 0 Maysonet ss 3 0 0 0
A.Phillips 3b 2 0 0 0
TRobinson lf 4 0 2 0
DCarroll rf-cf 3 1 1 0
R.Morla dh 4 0 1 2
Totals 35 6 13 6 Totals 30 1 2 1
Seattle (ss) 030 000 021 — 6 13 1
Milwaukee (ss) 000 000 100 — 1 2 0
E — Kinney (1). DP — Seattle 3. LOB — Seattle 9, Milwaukee 4. 2B — Ackley 3 (6), Conrad (2). HR — Liddi (1). SB — C.Gindl 2 (2). S — M.Kawasaki 2.
Mariners IP H R ER BB SO
F.Hernandez W, 2-1 6 1 0 0 1 6
C.Jimenez 1 1 1 1 0 0
Fox 1 0 0 0 0 0
Kinney 1 0 0 0 0 0
Brewers IP H R ER BB SO
Estrada L, 1-1 3 5 3 3 2 2
McClendon 2 2/3 2 0 0 1 2
A.Rivas 2 1/3 3 2 2 1 1
Butler 1 3 1 1 0 0
HBP — by F.Hernandez (Z.Wheeler), by Butler (S.Romero). T — 2:28. A — 7,036.

ATHLETICS 6, MARINERS 1

Seattle Oakland
AB R H BI AB R H BI
Figgins cf 3 1 0 0 Crisp cf 3 1 1 0
L.Rodrigz 2b 4 0 1 0 Fiorentino lf 1 0 0 0
Ichiro rf 4 0 3 1 Sogard 2b 3 1 1 0
Carp lf 4 0 0 0 W.Tmmns 2b 1 0 1 0
C.Wells dh 4 0 0 0 Reddick rf 3 1 1 2
Seager 3b 4 0 1 0 Taylor rf 1 0 0 0
Jaso 1b 3 0 0 0 M.Ramirz dh 3 1 1 1
J.Sucre c 3 0 0 0 Barton ph-dh 1 0 0 0
Quiroz c 0 0 0 0 Allen 1b 3 0 2 0
G.Noriega ss 3 0 0 0 Carter 1b 1 0 0 0
K.Suzuki c 3 0 0 0
R.Ortiz c 1 1 1 0
Cowgill lf 2 1 1 1
G.Green cf 1 0 0 0
Donaldsn 3b 3 0 1 0
J.Horton 3b 1 0 1 1
Rosales ss 2 0 0 1
T.Ladendrf ss 1 0 0 0
Totals 32 1 5 1 Totals 34 6 11 6
Seattle (ss) 100 000 000 1 5 1
Oakland 400 100 01x 6 11 0
E — G.Noriega (1). DP — Oakland 1. LOB — Seattle 5, Oakland 6. 2B — Ichiro (2), Reddick (2), M.Ramirez (1), Allen (3), R.Ortiz (1), J.Horton (1). SB — Cowgill (4). SF — Rosales.
Mariners IP H R ER BB SO
Iwakuma L, 1-1 4 7 5 3 1 3
Kelley 2 1 0 0 0 2
Delabar 1 1 0 0 0 2
Ruffin 1 2 1 1 0 1
Athletics IP H R ER BB SO
Godfrey W, 1-1 3 2/3 2 1 1 1 5
Blevins 1 1/3 0 0 0 0 0
Fuentes 1 1 0 0 0 1
Balfour 1 1 0 0 0 0
Norberto 2 1 0 0 0 2
WP — Delabar. T — 2:34. A — 9,038.

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