By Bob Dutton The News Tribune
SEATTLE — Jesus Montero’s wild career ride with the Seattle Mariners took another improbable twist Thursday night in Boise, Idaho, when he allegedly charged toward the stands in fury at the actions of a Mariners’ scout.
General manager Jack Zduriencik and various club officials spent Friday trying to piece together what happened — and why — even as they took steps to reprimand Montero and cross-checker Butch Baccala.
“We are extremely disappointed in both of their actions,” Zduriencik said. “It is unacceptable. This organization does not condone that type of behavior. It is being addressed as we speak.
“There are no excuses for either party. We have none, and we don’t intend to make any. It’s something that is extremely disappointing and embarrassing for the organization and for those two individuals.”
The Mariners sent Baccala back to his home in the San Francisco area until further notice. Montero, 24, was recalled from his rehab assignment at Short-A Everett to meet with club officials in Seattle.
Zduriencik said Montero “is not going to participate in anymore baseball the rest of this year for us. That’s just the way it is. It’s not going to happen.”
An MiLB.com report, which Zduriencik neither confirmed nor disputed, said the incident stemmed from Baccala’s annoyance at Montero’s perceived lack of hustle in moving toward duties as first-base coach.
Why Montero was coaching first remains unclear, but he was sent to Everett on a rehab assignment from Triple-A Tacoma because of a strained oblique.
That reassignment resulted, Zduriencik said, because at-bats were limited for first basemen/DHs at Tacoma due to Justin Smoak, Corey Hart (on a rehab assignment) and the anticipated return of Michael Saunders.
The MiLB.com report says Baccala ordered an ice-cream sandwich and had it sent to Montero. (Recall that Montero angered Mariners’ officials in spring training by reporting 40 pounds overweight.)
Here is the MiLB.com account:
“(Montero) approached the stands with a bat while screaming profanities and threw the sandwich at the cross-checker.
“Montero had to be pulled back from the stands by Everett pitching coach Nasusel Cabrera, (Boise official scorer Liza) Safford said.
“Montero was not ejected from the game and remained in the AquaSox dugout until it was completed.”
Zduriencik said Montero and Baccala are each at fault.
“There are always two sides to the story,” Zduriencik said. “But it really doesn’t matter. This incident is of the magnitude that either party should have been more under control.”
Montero was one of the game’s top prospects when acquired in January 2012 from the Yankees. After a promising rookie season, his production plummeted in a tumultuous 2013 season that included a drug-related suspension.
His weight problems resulted in a quick demotion this spring to the minors. He spent most of this season at Tacoma, where he hit .286 with 16 homers and 74 RBI in 97 games.
Zduriencik said the Mariners plan “to separate the baseball part of Jesus Montero from the human element part of Jesus Montero” in addressing the issue.
“There have been things with Jesus that have been setbacks,” Zduriencik said, “and he’s had more than one. To say they’re related? We’re going to find that out.
“We’re going to deal with this incident individually and see where it takes us in terms of what’s happened to Jesus in his past.”
Zduriencik was non-committal on whether Baccala will remain with the organization.
“Some of these things have to be handled internally before any kind of decision is made,” Zduriencik said. “There’s a proper process you need to go through and address with each individual. Right now, we’re not there yet.”
Outfielder James Jones rejoined the Mariners from Triple-A Tacoma prior to Friday’s game after the club cleared roster space by optioning right-hander Erasmo Ramirez to the Rainiers.
Jones, 25, returns for his fourth tour with the Mariners. He spent much of the season as their center fielder prior to the July 31 trade that brought Austin Jackson from Detroit.
Ramirez, 24, has also shuttled between the Mariners and Tacoma throughout the season. He gave up 10 runs in three-plus innings Wednesday in a 12-4 loss to Texas after being recalled prior to the game.
Jones batted .256 with a .285 on-base percentage in 83 previous big-league games. He still leads the Mariners with 20 steals in 21 attempts. Jones batted .282 with a .341 on-base percentage in 37 games for the Rainiers.
Ramirez is 1-6 with a 5.21 ERA in 14 big-league starts.
Outfielder Michael Saunders, 12 pounds lighter after a viral infection, went through some light early workouts prior to Friday’s game at Safeco Field.
“I went four or five days when I wasn’t eating,” he said. “I was just concentrating on staying hydrated. I was in pretty rough condition there. I’ve turned a page for the better now, and I’m definitely working my way back.”
Saunders, 27, was nearing the end of a rehab assignment at Tacoma for a strained left oblique when he caught Fifth disease from his daughter. He hasn’t played in the majors since July 10.
Plans call for Saunders to regain his strength and, if the Mariners still have affiliates playing, head out on another rehab assignment.
“His strength is not where it needs to be,” Zduriencik said. “It’s a day-to-day process for him to get healthy. How long that takes is yet to be determined.
“What I said to him today was, ‘Michael, we’d love to have you here. We want you here. But we also want Michael Saunders here.’”
The Mariners have reached an agreement with Dominican shortstop Christopher Torres, 16, at a fraction of his recent market price, according to multiple reports.
There has been no confirmation from the club.
MLB.com reported Torres will get $375,000 from the Mariners after the Yankees pulled what had been reported as an oral agreement for $2.1 million prior to the start of the July signing period.
Torres’ trainer, Orlando Mazara, told Baseball America the Mariners had offered $1.6 million before the Yankees topped the bid.
Mazara said the Yankees backed off because they believed Torres’ physical condition deteriorated due to inactivity after the two sides reached an agreement.
The Yankees have denied they had an oral agreement with Torres. Either way, once Torres went back on the market, his leverage fell considerably because most clubs had already allocated their international spending pools.
Baseball America rated Torres, a switch-hitter who is 6 feet and 170 pounds, as the No. 20 international prospect prior to the start of the international signing period.
“Most clubs regard Torres as a solid prospect who can play in the middle of the diamond…,” Baseball America wrote prior to the start of the signing period. “Most scouts consider him a defensive-oriented player.
“He does work the count with a sense for the strike zone. He has his believers with the bat, showing good hand-eye coordination, decent bat-to-ball skills and an improving stroke from the left side.”
Bench coach Trent Jewett filled in Friday for manager Lloyd McClendon, who is attending the wedding Saturday of his only daughter in Chesterton, Ind. McClendon is expected to return in time for Sunday’s series finale against the Nationals. … Shortstop Chris Taylor turned 24 on Friday.
Infielder Patrick Kivlehan and shortstop Ketel Marte were picked to the 15-member Southern League all-star team for their performance at Double-A Jackson.
Kivlehan, 24, batted .301 with 11 homers and 67 RBI in 100 games for the Generals after opening the season at Hi-A High Desert. He was a fourth-round pick in the 2012 draft.
Marte, 20, batted .302 with two homers and 46 RBI in 109 games at Jackson prior to his Aug. 10 promotion to Triple-A Tacoma. A Dominican native, he was signed in 2010 as a non-drafted free agent.
It was one year ago Saturday — Aug. 30, 2013 — that Taijuan Walker, at an age of 21 years and 17 days, made his much-anticipated major-league debut by pitching five innings in a 5-1 victory at Houston.
Walker got the victory after holding the Astros to one unearned run in five innings. In doing so, he became the youngest pitcher in franchise history to win his big-league debut.
A shoulder injury slowed Walker this season, but he is still generally viewed as the franchise’s top prospect. He will mark the anniversary of his big-league debut by starting for Triple-A Tacoma at Fresno.
The Mariners and Nationals continue their three-game weekend series at 6:10 p.m. Saturday at Safeco Field.
Rookie lefty Roenis Elias (9-11, 4.01 ERA) will oppose Washington right-hander Stephen Strasburg (10-10, 3.59). Root Sports will televise the game.
The series concludes at 1:10 p.m. Sunday. The Mariners then leave for a week-long road trip that consists of three games at Oakland and four games next weekend at Texas.