Zoning in on Jesus Montero

ZoningIn14_Montero

Zoning in on the 2016 Mariners is a daily series in which we’ll examine one player every day, 30 total, in the lead-up to Opening Day. We’ll explain their role on the field, what they’re like off of it and provide highlights and photos. On deck tomorrow: Steve Cishek.

Last year, Jesus Montero was the story of Spring Training. He’d remade his body, losing more than 40 pounds, and came to camp with a new attitude and approach to the game.

This year, there’s been considerably less fanfare devoted to his offseason efforts, but those efforts are there all the same. He spent the winter in Peoria preparing for a crucial Spring Training.

“I’m going out there and working hard every day,” he said in speaking to Greg Johns of Mariners.com over the offseason. “Keep hitting, keep throwing, keep taking ground balls, keep being in shape. Agility is the big thing, trying to have more range at first base, trying to be more agile. I’ll keep working at first base every single day, ground balls, fly balls, everything. I just want to do everything I can to be better next year.”

He’s understandably looking to improve at the Major League level, where he hit .223 in 38 games with Seattle in 2015–his longest stint with the big-league club since 2012.

But before that, in Tacoma, he dominated.  He hit .355, a Tacoma Rainiers record, and putting up a .966 OPS while swatting 18 home runs in 98 games. He was named to the All-Pacific Coast League Team following the season.

“He had a great Triple-A year,” Dipoto said over the winter. “He’s done what he can do in the Minor Leagues. It’s his time to be a big leaguer. Certainly, as it pertains to at least the right-handed portion of a platoon, he’s an option for us. We have to find out how he handles the defensive duties. But he can swing the bat.”

As Dipoto mentions, Montero will be competing for a spot as the right-handed part of a first-base platoon, with Adam Lind as the left-handed portion. Against lefties, Montero has fared well, putting up a .292/.341/.429 line for his career.

But, like Dipoto says, it’s going to come down to more than the bat, which is something manager Scott Servais recently echoed.

“When you look at the makeup of your club and your bench players, when you put the guy out there the defense and what that brings there, do you feel good about the defense? Do you trust it? What kind of at-bat are you going to get against one of the premier left-handed relievers in our league, which there are some pretty good ones.

“There’ll be a lot that goes into that, more than just what their batting average is in spring training.”

It’s something to watch as the competition, with Dae-Ho Lee and Stefen Romero also vying for the role, reaches its deciding days. With a little more than two weeks to Opening Day, we could see a winner soon.

Off the Field

Montero is a father of two, as he and his wife had a baby girl last offseason and added a boy this winter. He gives his fatherhood a lot of credit in reshaping his perspective on the game, and life.

“It changed everything,” he said. “It makes me more motivated about my work and about being more professional. I want to do this more and more and more. That’s what I think about all the time. I want to take care of my family and do my best for them.”

 

Highlights

 

 

 

 

Photos

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