Jesus Montero’s hands shook and his voice trembled. He knew what he had to say and why he had to say it. But it didn’t make it any easier for him.
Speaking to the media for the first time since being suspended last season for being linked to the BioGenesis performance enhancing drugs scandal, Montero, 24, apologized to fans, teammates and the Mariners organization for any embarrassment caused.
“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 would like to forget. He was handed the starting catching job in the offseason by general manager Jack Zdurienick and manager Eric Wedge. It was supposed to be a big year for Montero. However, news of the BioGenesis scandal appeared in the Miami New Times about a week before spring training. He denied allegations of PED use. But 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 back-up Kelly Shoppach. It slowly got worse. Montero was optioned to Triple A Tacoma on May 23 after hitting just .208 (12-for-101) with three homers, nine RBI 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 Montero suffered a knee injury in a game on 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 league. 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.”
A public apology was the first step in that process.
“My teammates are important to me,” he said. “I wanted them to be comfortable with me. I didn’t want them to be mad or upset. I wanted to say this to you guys because I want everyone to know I’m a good person. I know what people think. And I want to make a difference.”
Right now, Montero is a longshot to make this team. Despite the Mariners’ need for a right-handed bat, his lack of a true defensive position hurts his chances. His conversion to first base is still very much in its early stages.
“I’ve been catching all of my life,” he said. “But first base should be a little easier. I have to pay attention because it’s a different view of the game. It’s a new opportunity.”
But it’s only an opportunity. Unlike last season, he isn’t being handed anything. He will have to earn his way back on the team. He knows he has a lot to prove to people within the organization.
“I have to prove to myself that I have to be better,” Montero said. “I want to be on the team again. I want to be in the big leagues. I have to prove that to my family and to the team.”
The knee is healthy. He has no restrictions. He played winter ball in Venezuela. But Montero being Montero, it’s never easy. He admitted to coming in to camp heavier than he or the Mariners wanted, though he doesn’t look noticeably heavier. Still, it’s not a good sign for a player with something to prove.
“I just want to be better,” he said.
Well, it’s up to him now.