By Bob Dutton The News Tribune
PEORIA, Ariz. — Seattle Mariners first baseman Jesus Montero initiated what he hopes will be a redemptive spring and season Wednesday morning by issuing a public apology for his involvement in the Biogenesis drug scandal.
“I want to apologize to the whole organization and all of my teammates for what I did last year,” he said a day before the Mariners stage their first official workout for pitchers and catchers.
“I made a big bad mistake last year. I don’t know what I was thinking. But I’m here right now, in this new year, to be better and to help my teammates to win.”
Montero, 24, closed last season by accepting a 50-game suspension from Major League Baseball for allegedly obtaining performance-enhancing drugs from the Biogenesis, a health clinic in Coral Gables, Fla.
Thirteen other players received suspensions.
“I feel bad for all of my family, for all of my teammates for what I did,” Montero said. “It wasn’t a good experience for me, but right now I feel better. Thank God, everything is over, and I’m going to start again.”
The suspension capped a disastrous year for Montero, who was generally viewed as one of the game’s top prospects when obtained in a Jan. 12, 2012 trade that sent pitcher Michael Pineda to the New York Yankees.
Montero began last season as the Mariners’ starting catcher, but he was batting just .208 with three homers and nine RBI in 29 games when demoted May 23 to Class AAA Tacoma.
That move also prompted a position switch to first base because club officials viewed Mike Zunino, the club’s first-round pick in the 2012 draft, as a better long-term defensive fit at catcher.
Montero suffered an injury to his left knee that required surgery soon after arriving in Tacoma. He missed five weeks before returning in July for a short rehab assignment at Rookie-level Peoria before rejoining Tacoma.
MLB issued its Biogenesis suspensions on Aug. 5.
“I’ve got to prove to myself, first of all, that I have to be better,” Montero said. “I want to be on the team again. I want to be in the big leagues. Then I have
to prove (myself) to my family and to the team.”
There is much to prove.
“He’s been through too much the last year,” general manager Jack Zduriencik said, “and he has too much to prove to all of us, for him to be someone you’re banking on.
“Does he have the potential to be an impact offensive player? I think he does. … We didn’t see that last year. I think we’re all very curious to see what
Jesus Montero is when he rolls into spring training.”
That’s already an issue.
Montero tested his repaired knee by playing 22 games in the Venezuelan Winter League. No problems there; he said it’s “really good,” but he enters camp on a weight-loss program.
“I gained a lot of weight in my country,” he admitted. “So, now, I’m on a program to lose weight. I’m working really hard to get my weight back. I wasn’t doing nothing (after finishing winter ball), just eating.”
Montero already faced a tough battle to win a roster spot; the Mariners are overloaded with first base/designated hitter candidates. Since Montero has
options, he seems likely to open the season back at Tacoma.
Even so, he believes his apology represents an important step in rebuilding is once-promising career.
“My teammates are important to me,” Montero said. “I wanted them to be comfortable with me. I didn’t want them to be upset or anything like that.
“I wanted to say this (to reporters) because I want everyone to know I’m a good person. I know what everybody thinks, but I want to make (change their minds).”
Club president Kevin Mather, general manger Jack Zduriencik and other club officials will take part today in official ceremonies to open the organization’s new academy in Boca Chica, Dominican Republic.
“It is understood by every fan of Major League Baseball,” Zduriencik said, “just how important the Dominican Republic has been to the welfare of our fine game.”
The new Dominican academy is a 24-acre complex that includes three full-sized fields and housing for 80 prospects in addition to coaches and trainers.
Minor-league outfielder Cavan Cohoes received a 50-game suspension for violations of baseball’s drug policy.
Cohoes, 20, battled injuries since his selection in the ninth round of the 2011 draft. He spent most of last season at Rookie Peoria.