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February 20, 2014 at 11:08 AM

The forgotten prospect: GM Jack Zduriencik has “no expectations” for Jesus Montero

Jesus Montero warms up before Thursday's workout. (Seattle Times/Dean Rutz)

Jesus Montero warms up before Thursday’s workout. (Seattle Times/Dean Rutz)

Jesus Montero is the forgotten prospect. He’s no longer something to build on. He’s something to be salvaged. To many around baseball and within the organization, he’s just another guy filled with potential, but unaware that he’s squandering it.

This should have been a seminal offseason for Montero. He was coming off one of the worst years of his professional career. He was given the starting catching job in the offseason, lost it two weeks into the season, was sent to Triple A in May and told he was converting to first base, he injured his knee requiring surgery and then after coming back for a handful of games he was suspended for the remainder of the season for being linked to the BioGenesis.

It was a full year of disappointment.

For most players,  a season like that would be the ultimate motivation. For most players, they would take the offseason to prepare like they’ve never prepared before and come to camp ready to have writers pump out the “best shape of his life” stories.

Instead, Montero came in heavier than ever. He even admitted it, making the regrettable line: “after winter ball, all I did was eat.”

After each season, players meet with training and medical staff to set up their offseason. Each player is given a target weight they are expected to come in at for the following season. According to sources,  Montero has never once met that target weight since joining the Mariners. This year he came in 40 pounds over the weight the Mariners wanted him to come in at.

It’s led to frustration within the organization. General manager Jack Zduriencik was particularly critical of Montero and his future.

“We are disappointed in how he came in physically,” Zduriencik said bluntly.

That disinterest in conditioning in the offseason didn’t do much change the minds of people who have been skeptical of Montero’s work ethic. It certainly didn’t inspire Zduriencik, who was clearly unhappy with the situation.

“It’s up to him,” Zduriencik said. ” I have zero expectations for Jesus Montero. Any expectations I had are gone.”

It’s a far cry from when Montero was expected to be serious offensive contributor when they acquired him from the Yankees before the 2012 season. In 2012, Montero hit .260 with 15 homers and 62 RBI in 135 games. It seemed to be decent start to be a big league career. But now it’s seems to be headed backward at a pace much faster than Montero running the bases.

“He’s got a ton to prove,” Zduriencik said. “It’s all on him.”

But that’s the problem for some people within the organization. They seem to want it more than he does. 

“I can’t want it for him,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “At some point, the light has to come on for all of us. When I talked with him,  I told him he’s at a crossroads. It’s time to put up or shut up.”

Montero didn’t really offer any excuses or reasons as to why he came into camp overweight, but said last season and suspension was still on his mind. As for the weight?

“I feel comfortable with my weight,” he said. “But they want me to lose some weight. Whatever they want. I’m here for the opportunity.”

Really it’s not an opportunity to make the team as much as opportunity to change people’s perceptions of him.

“We can’t give it to him,” Zduriencik said. “And it’s not going to be given to him.”

Montero said he comes in every morning for extra cardio work and has been putting extra work with infield coach Chris Woodward at first base. McClendon  said that Montero has done everything they’ve asked thus far.

“It’s all going to be up to him,” McClendon said.

Going off past experience, putting the onus on Montero likely won’t result in much. Maybe he will change? Maybe he will figure it out?

“I’m not counting on him,” Zduriencik said. “I’m not expecting anything. Whatever he does, he’s got to get our attention that’s how I’m looking at it.  We haven’t discarded him at all. But he’s got to prove it us. We’ve got players here that want to be big league players and want to be big league players for a long time, in his case, he’s still got that to prove yet. And I don’t think he’s done that. He hasn’t taken that next step where he’s got everyone’s attention. He can because the ability is there to do that.”

And if not?

“In the end, it’s Jesus’ life,” Zduriencik said. “It’s Jesus who has to make a call on this. We’ll be there to assist any  of these players him included. But he will not given anything. It’s an uphill climb for him. He has the ability to get over the hump and he should. But if he doesn’t, then shame on Jesus.”

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