By JOSE ROMERO
PEORIA, Ariz. (AP) – Jesus Montero was visibly nervous Wednesday as he apologized to his Seattle Mariners teammates and their fans.
The catcher-turned-first baseman was joining the team at spring training for the first time since receiving a 50-game suspension after being connected to baseball's Biogenesis performance-enhancing drug investigation.
"I want to apologize to the whole organization and all my teammates for what I did last year," Montero said, his voice tinged with emotion. "I know I made a bad mistake last year and I don't know what I was thinking. But I'm here right now this year to be better and to help the team to win."
Montero is coming off a rough 2013. The catcher was a prized acquisition via trade with the New York Yankees in 2012 but struggled last year with his hitting and defense and was sent down to Triple-A Tacoma, where he was moved to first base. Then came a torn meniscus that required season-ending knee surgery and the suspension.
"This was the first time that happened to me. I had six good years in the minor leagues and one good year in the big leagues," Montero said. "Then this happened and it was hard for me and my family. But thank God it's in the past already and I'm here to move forward and here to be better every day."
Montero, 24, is on the Mariners' 40-man roster but is not guaranteed a spot on the major-league roster going into this season. He said his knee feels much better, but he'll have work to do to make the big-league club, or potentially start the year in the minors.
Before his statement, several teammates approached Montero in the clubhouse to greet him and welcome him back.
"I have to prove to myself, first of all, that I want to be in the big leagues," he said, pledging to continue to learn to play first base and play wherever the organization wants him. "My teammates, they're really important to me. I want them to be comfortable with me. I don't want them to be mad or be upset. I want everybody to know I'm a good person."
NOTES: Former Tampa Bay Rays closer Fernando Rodney was in the clubhouse Tuesday morning awaiting a physical. He remained officially unsigned pending the results and had yet to be listed on the team's spring training roster. . Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik, team President Kevin Mather and infielder Robinson Cano are in the Dominican Republic for Thursday's opening of the club's baseball academy there. The academy sits on 24 acres in the town of Boca Chica.
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