Ex-Yankee prospect Jesus Montero finds home with Seattle

3. SEATTLE MARINERS MANAGER: Eric Wedge, second season

3. SEATTLE MARINERS
MANAGER: Eric Wedge, second season 67-95, .414 (overall 628-668, .485)
GM: Jack Zduriencik
STADIUM: Safeco Field (47,878)
OUTLOOK: The Mariners are slowly putting together a contender, with a farm system promising more talent on the way. Former Yankees C-DH Jesus Montero will be looked upon to provide offensive pop, as will 1B Justin Smoak.
CONCERN: The notion of hitting 3B Chone Figgins leadoff doesn’t inspire great confidence.
BOTTOM LINE: Not ready for prime time, especially with the powerhouse Rangers and Angels in this division. But getting there.

(Credit: Getty Images)

PEORIA, Ariz. -- The offseason phone call from Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik made Jesus Montero stop and wonder, "Wow, what's going on?"

News that the Yankees' top prospect had been traded to Seattle took a while to sink in with the 22-year-old catcher. Now, two months removed from the trade and a month into his first spring training in a Mariners uniform, Montero couldn't be happier with his new club.

"I wouldn't change it," he said. "Just the opportunity that they give me -- I'm really happy to be here. I can't complain about any of this. This is the best for me."

Montero was long considered the top bat in the Yankees' farm system. But with a need for starting pitching, Brian Cashman couldn't pass up the chance to acquire young righthander Michael Pineda for Montero and righty Hector Noesi.

Now, as a Mariner, Montero will see the middle of the lineup almost every day as a designated hitter or catcher.

"Whatever opportunity they give me, to catch, to DH, whatever -- to be bat boy -- I'll be there for them," said Montero, who hit .328 with four homers in 18 games with the Yankees last year.

Montero has impressed in spring training, posting a .304 batting average, .370 on-base percentage and .565 slugging percentage along with eight RBIs in eight games through Friday. Mariners hitting coach Chris Chambliss, a former Yankees player and coach, has been pleased with the youngster's bat speed.

"We see him in the middle of our order right now; you can't put it any better than that," Chambliss said. "He's a righthanded bat that's going to be very important for our offense."

Chambliss raved about Montero's mind-set, describing it as "knowing how good he is but knowing he has to work to maintain that."

Manager Eric Wedge plans to ease Montero into the catching role, with Miguel Olivo as his top backstop. Montero's defense is a question, and Wedge has entrusted third-base coach Jeff Datz the task of working with Montero behind the plate.

"You see some of the right- here-right-now talent, and you see some things that will take some time for him to develop and finish off at the big-league level," Wedge said. "I don't have any doubt in my mind he'll be able to do that."

Wedge noted that Montero has fit seamlessly into the Mariners' clubhouse. When asked about the amount of talent involved in the January deal, the manager's eyes lit up.

"I look at this as an old-school trade," he said, noting he'd like to be discussing the trade come October. "It should be a win-win trade for both teams. There's no one team trying to sneak something over or beat somebody else. It's a need-based, win-win type of trade."

Montero certainly feels he's won. And, he couldn't be happier about being in Seattle -- except for maybe one thing.

"It's beautiful," Montero gushed about his new city. "But it does rain a lot."

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