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SportsColumnistsDavid Lennon

Montero-Pineda deal: Advantage, Mariners

Jesus Montero in action against the Yankees at

Jesus Montero in action against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium. (May 11, 2012) Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik laughed Friday when someone asked if he needed a bulletproof vest for his visit to New York this weekend. Or at the very least, some sort of disguise.

Then again, aside from Ichiro Suzuki and Felix Hernandez, the Mariners are a fairly low-profile group, so it's not as if Zduriencik -- despite his infamy among Yankees fans -- expected to be recognized.

The only name on Seattle's roster that people in these parts really get worked up about is Jesus Montero, fondly remembered as the top-rated Yankees prospect traded in January for Michael Pineda.

Pineda has been lost to season-ending shoulder surgery to repair an anterior labral tear. Montero was in Friday's lineup, batting cleanup and catching for the Mariners. Advantage, Zduriencik.

If that wasn't bad enough, Montero launched his fifth homer, an opposite-field shot off Hiroki Kuroda that temporarily put the Mariners up by a run in the sixth. Unlike last September, there was no cheering as he circled the bases.

"Everything can change in baseball," Montero said before the Yankees beat Seattle, 6-2. "This is a business, and we've got to take care of business no matter where you're at. I'm really happy being on this team now."

The Yankees even got burned by the lesser prospects in the Pineda-Montero package. The pitcher they sent to Seattle, Hector Noesi, is starting against them Saturday. The one they got back, Class A standout Jose Campos, is on the disabled list with elbow inflammation.

This trade has turned out so lopsided in the Mariners' favor that no one would have blamed Zduriencik if he showed up with a lawyer for Friday's impromptu chat with reporters. It's not easy to make Brian Cashman and the Yankees come off as sympathetic figures, but that's what Zduriencik has done, albeit unintentionally.

"I feel bad for Brian. I feel very bad for the Yankees," Zduriencik said. "I wish this thing would have been a little different. But the fact that [Pineda] is so young and the fact that he's strong, he should bounce back from this. They just have to wait a little bit for their rewards."

For Pineda, it will be another year, to be exact; the Yankees hope he will be part of their 2013 rotation. In Campos' case, fingers are crossed that it is nothing more sinister than inflammation.

Zduriencik insists he had no knowledge of either injury before the pitchers were dealt to the Yankees. Cashman even subjected Pineda to X-rays and an MRI before completing the trade. Still, Pineda's diminished velocity toward the end of last season and its disappearance in spring training this year leaves lingering questions.

"You can't control what people think or say," Zduriencik said. "In this case here, there's nothing. Brian knows this, and I know it, and everybody involved in the deal knows it. It's just one of those unfortunate circumstances that just happened. Players get hurt. Pitchers get hurt."

Zduriencik faced similar criticism in 2009 when J.J. Putz, acquired by the Mets the previous winter, required surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow. Putz said the Mariners knew he had a bone spur before the trade but didn't recommend surgery. He was dealt to the Mets shortly afterward, but Zduriencik says he doesn't keep a running scorecard of his swaps.

"I never try to win a trade," Zduriencik said. "I don't think you enter a deal thinking that you're going to win a deal. I think what you do is you have common sense and respect for all parties involved, and say I hope this helps both organizations.

"I thought for sure, this is exactly what the Yankees needed. Who could predict? Nobody could. And Jesus is what we needed."

The Yankees, with Pineda starting a lengthy rehab, must settle for a speedy recovery.

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