PEORIA, Ariz. -- There were no expectations for Jesus Montero after he arrived at Mariners camp a reported 40 pounds overweight, as general manager Jack Zduriencik made clear in a pointed early comment directed at the former big-time prospect whose career might be hanging in the balance.
Now finally, there are expectations for Montero. Such as it is, that's progress.
Montero was relegated to what Zduriencik described as the 5 a.m. "group" when he got to camp so overweight it bordered on embarrassing (though technically there was only one other player in that early morning "group"), and he appears to have responded well. Montero is batting .296 with two home runs (though he made two errors in one inning at first base tonight, dropping a routine foul popup and booting a grounder). Plus, he was seen looking at film before the game tonight against the Cubs even though he wasn't starting and appears to be in reasonable shape. And he has "graduated" from the 5 a.m. group, as has the other unnamed "graduate."
In a far cry from the tough words Zduriencik had for Montero early in camp, when Montero admitted that "all I did was eat" following winter ball, Zduriencik told CBSSports.com, "He's in good shape. He's worked very hard. Everyone involved is very happy. He put his nose to the grindstone and he hasn't looked back."
Zduriencik complimented the training staff for helping to keep Montero focused. Zduriencik's early camp warning -- the GM said at the time "It's up to him. I have zero expectations for Jesus Montero. Any expectations I had are gone," probably didn't hurt, either.
Someone had to make clear to Montero his career is teetering on the edge. He was viewed a middle-of-the-order bat when he came in a trade from the Yankees for pitcher Michael Pineda, but last year was nothing short of a disaster following an acceptable first year in Seattle. He hit .208, was demoted to Triple-a Tacoma and ultimately received a 50-game suspension for his link to Biogenesis.
Montero still has work to do to win an important role with the Mariners. But suffice it to say, the expectations are up, at least a little.