Message to Montero: Career at crossroads

bob.dutton@thenewstribune.comFebruary 21, 2014 

PEORIA, Ariz. — Just in case first baseman Jesus Montero, the one-time super prospect, had any lingering doubts regarding his status within the Mariners’ organization, let manager Lloyd McClendon dispel them.

“Get better,” McClendon said. “Get back to being the big-time prospect that he was in New York. Part of that is getting himself in top physical condition. Getting in touch with his mental side.

“He’s got a lot of work to do.”

Montero is on a weight-loss program after checking into camp at 270 pounds and admitting he spent much of the offseason “just eating.”

He is also looking to rebound from a year that included a drop in production, a position switch from catcher to first base, a knee injury that required surgery and a drug-related suspension.

“To his credit,” McClendon said, “he’s putting the time in. We’ll see. My eyes are wide open when it comes to Montero. I’m not closing any doors, and I’m not opening any doors. It’s all going to be up to him.

“I see a young man who still has a chance. I can’t want it for him. At some point, the light has to come on for all of us. My talk with him was he’s at a crossroads. It’s time to either put up or shut up.”

EIGHT ONE-YEAR DEALS

The Mariners reached agreement with eight players on one-year deals. All eight have insufficient service time to qualify for arbitration or free agency, which effectively provides the club with all negotiating leverage.

The eight were third baseman Kyle Seager, shortstop Nick Franklin, catcher Mike Zunino, outfielders Julio Morban and Stefen Romero, left-handed pitchers James Paxton and Anthony Fernandez and right-hander Logan Bawcom.

Financial terms were not announced, but such deals are typically valued at or slightly above the major-league minimum salary, which rises this season to $500,000.

The Mariners still have 19 unsigned players on their 40-man roster. All are expected to be signed or have their contract renewed prior to the March 11 deadline. Here’s the list:

Pitchers (11): Blake Beavan, Danny Farquhar, Bobby LaFramboise, Lucas Luetge, Brandon Maurer, Yoervis Medina, Hector Noesi, Stephen Pryor, Erasmo Ramirez, Taijuan Walker and Tom Wilhelmsen.

Catchers (1): Jesus Sucre.

Infielders (4): Ji-Man Choi, Brad Miller, Jesus Montero and Carlos Triunfel.

Outfielders (3): Abraham Almonte, Xavier Avery and James Jones.

FELIX THE FACE

Former Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez is through to the semifinals in MLB Network’s “Face of MLB” polling on Twitter after a narrow victory over Cincinnati first baseman Joey Votto, the reigning champion.

Hernandez admitted he’s following the contest, calling it “fun.” He finished with 50.2 percent of the Twitter vote in a 23-hour contest against Votto that ended at 5 a.m. Thursday.

The semifinals will match Hernandez against either Mets third baseman David Wright or Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw.

The other side of the bracket matches Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter against Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista, and Giants catcher Buster Posey against A’s second baseman Eric Sogard.

CHALLENGE FLAGS

McClendon said he and his staff still need to work out the best approach to baseball’s new challenge system on disputed calls.

“You’ve got to be smart in how you use it,” he said. “We’ve got to figure out how we develop my relationship with Trent (Jewett, the bench coach), and our video guy getting that information to me right away.

“Is it the right time to challenge? It’s still a work in progress.”

One plus: McClendon will be armed with more than just words in pleading his case.

“I just look at it as it’s going to save me a lot of money,” he said. “Bases are safe. I wish they would have had it back then.”

SHORT HOPS

Hernandez and right-hander Taijuan Walker attracted far less attention Thursday in their second bullpen throwing workouts. McClendon’s characterization: “Good bullpen sessions.” … Former Seahawks receiver Steve Largent made a camp appearance. McClendon said the two discussed their experiences in playing the other’s sport. “I told him what a (heck) of a football player I was,” McClendon said, “and he told me what a (heck) of a baseball player he was. We told a lot of lies.” … Scratch lefty Chris Capuano from the Mariners’ list of possible free-agent targets. He reached a one-year deal with Boston for $2.25 million.

bob.dutton@thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners

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