Tough Love Conquers All? Jesus Montero Lives!

Jesús_Montero_on_April_15,_2012

== Wonder if there’s a need for a right-handed bat? ==

It couldn’t get worse for Jesus Montero, after:

  • losing his job as a catcher — forever
  • losing every bit of his once-shiny luster as a hitting prospect
  • injuring his knee
  • getting suspended for performance-enhancing drugs
  • injuring his hand in a car accident
  • “mailing in” his return to winter ball after the accident
  • spending his idle time thereafter admittedly eating his way to being supposedly 40 pounds overweight
  • having his general manager call him out for all of the above, and clearly stating that Montero had zero expectations

And sometimes things need to get worse before they get better.

Interestingly, rather than exiling Montero to no-mans-land, the Mariners decided to give him some rope and see if he hung himself.

He didn’t.  And now he has a very legitimate chance to make the 25-man roster that — oh gee maybe? — has been in need of another above-average right-handed hitter.

Montero has been given 21 plate appearances in spring games.  Only a handful of guys have more.  He’s been given plenty of chance to play first base — although, from the highlight reels, it’s clear he’s not a natural there.

At the plate, he started 1-for-10.  At that point, the Mariner bus surely could have hit the accelerator and left Montero for dead by the side of the road.

But no.

They sent him right back out — an indication that the verbal bashing was, indeed, more strategic “tough love” than anything else.

And then in quick succession:

  • two singles, and a walk (March 6)
  • two doubles (March 7)
  • two home runs (March 8)

I’m not sure what the next step in that progression is — two grand slams?  I suppose for Montero it would be two triples (imagine the degree-of-difficulty on that), but don’t count on it.

Now go back to the tough love.  Both Lloyd McClendon and Jack Zduriencik said the door was open, but nothing would be handed Montero.  Now they have been handing him playing time, so I assume that means that Montero has been “with the program” in other respects (working hard, getting in shape, etc.).

So it seems to be working.

And that’s why I don’t think they’ll send him to Tacoma just “for show.”  They said he had to earn his way onto the team.  If he, in fact, earns it, why would they deny him?

===

If so, how does he fit?

Option 1) Let Willie Bloomquist be your backup shortstop, and either trade or send down the runner-up in the battle of the kids (Nick Franklin or Brad Miller).  I don’t think they’ll want the runner-up to be a bench player anyway, and Dustin Ackley‘s ability to play second would give them some flexibility — though Bloomie would be the backup at both short and third, and also the only speedy player on the bench.

Option 2) As Jeff proposes at SeattleSportsInsider.com, pull the plug on the Logan Morrison experiment.  LoMo seems limited to 1b/DH, and, while it’s nice, the team is not really in great need of a left-handed 1b/DH player.  Plus, LoMo filling the DH spot pushes Corey Hart into the outfield maybe more than he should be.  Jeff also points out that Montero as emergency catcher opens up the backup backstop as a DH or pinch-hitting option.  LoMo might fetch something interesting in the trade market.  Something along the lines of Carter Capps, for example.

Either option might be putting too much trust in Montero, so it’s still quite possible he’ll get stashed at Tacoma until things shake out a bit more.

But it is different to anticipate Montero living up to a level of performance that he’s already shown, as opposed to expecting a guy to be consistently better than he ever was before (the latter being the most common mistake when guys win jobs with spring training hot streaks).

And, as we’ve noted, maybe the team needs another above-average right-handed bat.

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3 thoughts on “Tough Love Conquers All? Jesus Montero Lives!

  1. I thought I read somewhere that LoMo has an option year left… so maybe LoMo can go down to Tacoma and prove himself…

  2. Montero as a lefty masher would provide a short-term benefit to the club but I think I’d prefer him playing first base, getting back in shape and facing all pitchers in AAA. He hasn’t played steadily for awhile and I think he needs to do that first. There will likely be a spot open for him at some point in the near future.

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