SEATTLE — First baseman Jesus Montero joined the Mariners just in time for the series finale Thursday night against his former club, the New York Yankees, at Safeco Field.
The Mariners recalled Montero from Triple-A Tacoma to fill the vacancy created by Wednesdays post-game decision to put outfielder Michael Saunders on the 15-day disabled list because of a sore right shoulder.
Montero didnt hide his elation at returning to the majors but insisted he returns as a changed person after a tumultuous 15 months.
The biggest thing I learned (at Tacoma), he said, was how good it is to be in the big leagues. Ive got to respect the game. Ive got to do my best to be here all life and to help the team to win. Thats what I learned.
Say this: Montero isnt arriving with a hot bat. He was 3-for-19 without an RBI over his last six games at Triple-A Tacoma. Even so, the Mariners judged him as the best replacement piece for Saunders.
I think hes trying to get things back together, manager Lloyd McClendon said. Hes been working hard. Actually, hes been swinging the bat better than the indicated down there. For me, he was the logical choice.
The Mariners chose Montero over several other promotion candidates, including infielders Nick Franklin and Chris Taylor, and outfielders Xavier Nady and Abraham Almonte.
Summoning either Taylor or Nady would have required a corresponding space-clearing move on the 40-man roster.
Weve got a 15-day DL (with Saunders), McClendon said, and (Montero) is on the roster. It just made sense to bring (up) this young man and give him an opportunity.
McClendon said Montero would serve, primarily, as a designated hitter against left-handed pitchers.
Montero, 24, had eight homers and 40 RBIs in 59 games for the Rainiers while compiling a .270/.345/.455 slash (batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage).
But seven of those homers came in his first 20 games. Montero hit just one homer in his last 39 games for the Rainiers while batting .261 with 19 RBIs.
Its tough, he said. Its Triple-A. There are a lot of veteran guys there pitching. I feel great to be here. I feel I earned it, and I feel like I learned something. Now, I want to be here forever.
The Mariners acquired Montero from the Yankeees in a Jan. 20, 2102 trade for pitchers Michael Pineda and Jose Campos. The Mariners also got pitcher Hector Noesi in the deal.
At the time, Montero was widely viewed as one of the games top prospects.
Montero batted .260 in 135 games as a rookie in 2012 with 15 homers and 62 RBIs, but he slumped badly last season and was sent to the minors on May 23, in part, to facilitate a position change from catcher to first base.
While at Tacoma, Montero suffered a torn meniscus in his left knee, which required surgery and sidelined him from June 1 to July 18.
Shortly after returning, he received a 50-game suspension for allegedly obtaining performance-enhancing drugs from the Biogenesis, a health clinic in Coral Gables, Fla.
That suspension carried through the end of the season.
Montero then drew the Mariners ire this season by reporting 40 pounds overweight when he arrived for spring training. He was optioned March 14 to Tacoma.
Ive focused a lot on my cardio to get better with my body, Montero said. Im trying to do my routines every single day. Thats what I did in Tacoma.
They wanted me to do a lot of stuff at first base, and I kept doing it every single day. I think that helped me to be here again.