Jesus Montero won’t play baseball again this year after a confrontation Thursday night with a senior Mariners scout.
Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik told reporters Friday the team has ended Montero’s minor-league season and will put him in a program to help with his off-field issues. Zduriencik also said the team has sent home national crosschecker Butch Baccala and will deal with him internally after further investigation.
“This incident is of the magnitude that either party should have been more under control,’’ Zduriencik said. “Either party should have been more professional. You just don’t get to this point and say neither is to blame or who is to cast the blame. It doesn’t really matter.
“There are always two sides to every story. In the end, I would view this as saying both parties are wrong.”
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Montero was on a rehabilitation assignment for an oblique muscle injury with the team’s Class A short-season affiliate, the Everett AquaSox, in Boise. News reports said Baccala heckled Montero as he headed toward the team dugout between innings, then later had an ice cream sandwich sent to him in the dugout.
Upon receiving the ice cream, Montero is said to have angrily approached the stands with a baseball bat. The reports say he threw the ice cream at Baccala before being pulled away.
Montero was suspended 50 games last season after his name appeared on a client list for Biogenesis, a Miami-based aging clinic said to have supplied numerous athletes with performance-enhancing drugs. This spring, he irked the team by reporting to camp overweight and telling reporters he’d done little but eat all winter long.
“We are going to separate the baseball part of Jesus Montero from the human element part of Jesus Montero,’’ Zduriencik said of the former top prospect, who spent most of the season in Class AAA and only six games with the Mariners. “Our intent is to address Jesus’ issues. There’s a history here of things that have happened. We are very, very disappointed in him.”
Baccala, 52, declined to comment Friday afternoon when reached by phone after the team announced he was being pulled from his assignment. Earlier in the day, Baccala had said the incident was being blown out of proportion.
“It’s not what is being portrayed,’’ he said.
He denied attempting to provoke Montero about his weight.
“Of course I wasn’t,’’ he said. “Why would I? I work for the Mariners. I’ve worked my ass off for the Mariners. Why would I do anything to hurt anybody? That wasn’t even close to the intention.’’
Baccala at first denied the ice cream sandwich story, then said he couldn’t comment one way or the other. He suggested a reporter check whether they even sell ice cream sandwiches at Memorial Stadium in Boise, where the game was played.
Todd Rahr, president and general manager of the Boise Hawks, confirmed that ice cream sandwiches are indeed sold at the ballpark during games. Rahr declined to comment further, saying it was out of respect to the Mariners organization.
Baccala said he’d gladly reveal more, but only after he first spoke to Zduriencik.
“I don’t want to lose my job,’’ Baccala said. “I love my job.’’
But later, after speaking with Zduriencik, he declined to comment further.
This isn’t the first time some have wondered about Baccala’s judgment. Scouts from several teams say the former pitcher — who pitched in one Class A game for the Phillies in 1983 before succumbing to arm injuries — has gained a reputation as somebody good at his job, but with a sharp tongue and questionable comportment.
In his first scouting go-round with the Mariners, in 1984, Baccala was watching future major-leaguer John Orton in a high-school game in Santa Cruz, Calif., when he was ejected from the ballpark by the umpire for arguing a call from the stands.
“There was a close play at first base and he didn’t like it,’’ said a witness at the park, who asked not to be named. “So, he starts heckling the first-base umpire from where he was sitting and the next thing you know, he gets ejected. I know the Mariners were not very happy about that.’’
Baccala eventually moved on from Seattle to scout with the Braves and Reds. In 2008, working as a scout for the Reds, he gained attention for blogging about life on the road. The Reds ordered him to stop.
The Reds dismissed Baccala at season’s end but he was picked up by Zduriencik before his first Seattle season in 2009. By all accounts, Baccala was a fast-rising favorite of Zduriencik and amateur scouting director Tom McNamara, getting promoted from West Coast supervisor to national crosschecker in November.
“We are extremely disappointed in both of their actions,’’ Zduriencik said. “It is unacceptable. This organization doesn’t condone that type of behavior … it’s something that is extremely disappointing and embarrassing for the organization and for those two individuals.’’
Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or firstname.lastname@example.org