Jesus Montero is on the spot to improve his batting, catching and running skills to hold the No. 1 full-time catching job as the Mariners begin spring training.
Pitchers and catchers report Tuesday to spring training in Peoria, AZ., where many eyes will be upon Jesus Montero, who will make his pitch to catch full-time. In his first year as a Mariner as well as a fulltime major leaguer, he played in 135 games split between catcher and DH and hit .260 with 15 home runs and 62 RBIs — not bad, but not enough.
Montero, 23, thinks he can catch full time, partly because he found the DH job difficult after being a full-timer. But his defensive shortcomings as a rookie limited his time behind the plate. He hopes an off-season regimen that included copious amounts of running and conditioning will have a big impact on picking up his game.
The Mariners traded catcher John Jaso to Oakland and signed two veteran free agents, Kelly Shoppach and Ronny Paulino, to compete in spring training with Montero, who also will face a challenge from heralded No. 1 draftee Mike Zunino, a major league camp invitee.
After Montero departed for the desert, he found himself part of a controversy surrounding the federal investigation of a clinic in Miami that is suspected to have distributed performance-enhancing drugs banned by MLB to several players, including Alex Rodriguez, Melky Cabrera and Gio Gonzales. The New York Daily News reported that Montero’s name was found on a list among documents seized by federal investigators.
But no other information has been disclosed about how or why Montero’s name appeared. He claimed innocence and bewilderment in an interview with the Seattle Times: “I have no clue what happened. I feel like I’m caught in the middle of something and I don’t know why.”
Before the news, he made an appearance at the annual Star of the Year event Jan. 26 at Benaroya Hall and offered his take to SPNW’s Art Thiel on his first Seattle year and his plans for 2013.