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M’s GM: Jesus Montero won’t be handed anything

By Brent Stecker

Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik has made it clear that he’s not happy with the condition catcher-turned-first baseman Jesus Montero came into spring training in.

montero swing
Jesus Montero has followed up a disappointing 2013 season that included an injury, a trip to Triple-A and a 50-game suspension by showing up to Mariners camp 40 pounds overweight. (AP)

Zduriencik was quoted in a Seattle Times article Thursday that he has “zero expectations” for the 24-year-old Montero, a former can’t-miss prospect who Zduriencik acquired from the Yankees for phenom pitcher Michael Pineda prior to the 2012 season. The big reason for that is that Montero arrived in camp 40 pounds heavier than his prescribed weight, which has not helped the case of a player whose rocky 2013 included a prolonged stint in Triple-A, a torn meniscus, and a 50-game suspension for being involved in the Biogenesis scandal.

On 710 ESPN Seattle’s “Brock and Danny” Friday, Zduriencik further explained why Montero’s stock has dropped.

“He’s got a lot to prove, and the fact that he came in in the condition that he came in is disappointing,” Zduriencik said. “If he doesn’t see it – and I know he does – it would be even more disappointing. He’s a young kid that had some problems last year, he’s got a new position to play, he’s coming back off of surgery, he’s got a new manager coming into Major League camp, and he came in in not very good shape, and that is very, very disappointing.”

Montero had a decent first year in Seattle, hitting .260 with 15 home runs in 2012. His 2013 season was a much different story. He began the year as the Mariners’ starting catcher, but he struggled behind and at the plate and instead found himself learning to play first base in a Tacoma Rainers uniform by late May. After that experience, plus his troublesome offseason, Zduriencik said Montero has work to do to earn back a spot on the Major League roster.

“He’s not gonna be given anything, and I don’t have any expectations. I have no expectations for Jesus,” Zduriencik said. “It’s up to him to prove (it to) us, and I certainly hope he does. Am I counting on him? I’m not counting on him. Do I think he has the ability to help us? Of course he has the ability to help us. This is a big bat, but he’s got a lot to work on to get to that point, and it’s all in his lap. It’s up to him, it isn’t up to us.”

If motivation is the problem for Montero, the Mariners may have the answer in their new manager, Lloyd McClendon. Zduriencik said McClendon’s first spring training is going well so far, partly because of his fiery temperament.

“(McClendon is) a funny guy, and he’s got this sincerity about him that’s so genuine. He’s a feisty guy, he’s got fight in him,” Zduriencik said. “I think the players are gonna feed off of it. It’s no facade, it’s who he is. He’s got good internal confidence, and I think that as we go through and watch him manage this club, we’re gonna see a lot of that stuff. The players like him. They really like him, so that’s a good start right off the bat.”