PEORIA, Ariz. — Jesus Montero’s hands shook and his voice trembled. He knew what he had to say and why he had to say it. But that didn’t make the words come out any easier.
On Wednesday, shortly after he arrived at the Mariners’ springtraining facility for his first workout, Montero decided to address the media for the first time since being suspended late last season for his role in the Biogenesis performance-enhancing drug scandal.
“I’m here because I want to apologize to the whole organization and all of my teammates for what I did last year,” Montero said. “I made a big, bad mistake last year. I don’t know what I was thinking. I’m here right now, this new year, to be better and to help my teammates and to help the team to win. I feel bad for all of my family and all of my teammates for what I did.”
The 2013 season is one that Montero and the Mariners would like to forget. He was handed the starting catching job in the offseason by general manager Jack Zduriencik and manager Eric Wedge despite obvious defensive weaknesses.
It was supposed to be a seminal year in his career. And it was, for all the wrong reasons.
News of the Biogenesis scandal appeared in the Miami New Times about a week before spring training. While Montero denied allegations of PED use, the controversy never left his mind. After a decent spring, Montero lost his starting job just a few weeks into the season and began splitting time with backup Kelly Shoppach. It slowly got worse. Montero was optioned to Class AAA Tacoma on May 23 after hitting just .208 with three homers, nine runs batted in and 21 strikeouts in 29 games.
“I wasn’t me because I was thinking about all the things that were happening to me,” he said.
The Mariners began the process of converting Montero to first base in Tacoma.
But that was sidetracked after seven games when he suffered a knee injury while catching in a game May 29. He was diagnosed with a torn meniscus and had surgery to repair the knee on June 5.
He returned to action on July 17 and appeared in 12 games after the surgery before accepting a suspension levied by Major League Baseball that ended his season.
“It was a little hard for me,” he said. “This was the first time that happened to me. I had six good years in the minor leagues and one good year in the big leagues. The ups and downs were a little hard for me. Thank God, it’s in the past for me and I’m here to move forward and be better.”
Montero is a longshot to make the team. Despite the Mariners’ need for a right-handed hitter, his lack of a true defensive position hurts his chances. His conversion to first base is still very much in its early stages.
Valle named AquaSox manager
When the Mariners released their minor-league coaching assignments earlier this offseason, there were no assignments for their short-season teams in Everett, Pulaski and Peoria.
Why? Because the organization was in the process of finalizing the details to have former catcher Dave Valle manage the AquaSox.
Because of his broadcasting commitments to the Mariners and MLB Network, there were a few aspects that needed to be worked out before Valle could accept the job and the organization could announce it.
Valle played 13 big-league seasons, nine with the Mariners.