Jesus Montero is back with the Mariners and he wants to stay forever.
On Thursday, the Mariners announced that they were recalling the one-time prized hitting prospect from Class AAA Tacoma. Montero fills the spot left vacant after outfielder Michael Saunders was placed on the disabled list with a strained acromioclavicular (AC) joint in his right shoulder.
Montero, who was with the Rainiers in Memphis, got the call late Wednesday night. He caught an early flight on Thursday to make it back to Seattle for batting practice.
“It’s a long day for me,” he said. “It was a long flight, but I’m happy to be here. I’m happy to be back on the team. They told me last night and gave me that great news. I called my wife. I called my family. They were all excited. I feel great to be here. I feel like I’ve earned it. I feel like I learned something. Now I want to be here forever.”
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Manager Lloyd McClendon made Montero’s role pretty clear.
“He’ll play against left-handers and hopefully gives us a little added punch against left-handers,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “He’ll most likely DH.”
The chances of Montero, who is still learning to play first base, actually playing in the field are slim.
Montero was hitting .270 (60-for-222) with eight homers, 40 RBI and a .800 on-base plus slugging percentage in 59 games with Tacoma. His production had slowed considerably. He hit his last homer on May 19 and has just three hits in his past 19 at-bats.
“It’s tough,” he said. “It’s AAA. There’s a lot of veteran guys down there pitching. Sometimes it’s a little tough. Sometimes you have a good couple games.”
McClendon chose Montero over infielder Nick Franklin and outfielder Abraham Almonte, both of whom had struggled in their big league stints this season.
When asked about Montero’s recent struggles, McClendon deadpanned: “Sounds like he should hit fourth.”
Like many people, McClendon believes that Montero has some talent. In 2012 — his first season with the Mariners — Montero hit .260 with 15 homers and 62 RBI in 135 games. But since then, he’s dealt with injuries, failed expectations, a suspension for being linked to performance enhancing drugs and weight issues. He arrived at spring training this year 45 pounds over his expected reporting weight. Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik was frank about Montero’s future with the organization saying he “had no expectations” for him at the time.
“I think he’s trying to get things back together,” McClendon said. “He’s been working hard. He’s actually been swinging the bat better than the numbers indicate. For me, he was the logical choice.”
The loss of status within the organization and being sent to Triple A to start the season offered a bit of awakening to Montero.
“The biggest thing for me was how valuable it is to be in the big leagues, how good it is to be in the big leagues,” said the youngster. “I have to respect the game, I have to do the best to be here all my life, and to help the team to win.”
• Saunders was forced to the DL after he re-aggravated the strain in his shoulder swinging in Tuesday’s loss to the Yankees. He had some swings and misses where there was noticeable discomfort, particularly on inside pitches where he was tied up and also on low and away pitches.
Saunders first suffered the injury in Tampa on Friday making a swing.
“It needs rest, and it’s unfortunate that he’s going to have to go on the DL to do that,” McClendon said. “I don’t expect it to be more than five or six days, but I don’t think we are the type of club that can play short for five or six days.”
• Left-hander James Paxton will play catch from 60 feet for 10 minutes on Friday. Paxton threw from 60 feet for seven minutes on Thursday as he recovers from a shoulder impingement setback in his recovery from a strained lat muscle.
If all goes well on Friday, they will increase the distance on his catch sessions.
There has been no timetable set for when Paxton will actually begin throwing off the mound again.
• The Mariners announced the signings of a handful of draft picks, including their third-round pick — outfielder Austin Cousino out of the University of Kentucky. MLB.com reported that Cousino got a $400,00 signing bonus. Among the signees were a couple of local products — left-hander Nick Kiel (18th round) out of Bellevue College and infielder Taylor Smart (26th round), who hails from Maple Valley and played at University of Tennessee. Top draft pick Alex Jackson remains unsigned.
Ryan Divish: 206-464-2373 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @RyanDivish