3/9/2014 3:02 P.M. ET
Montero out to prove he belongs in big leagues
By John Schlegel / MLB.com
PEORIA, Ariz. -- The transformation of Jesus Montero into a first baseman and reliable Major League hitter is a work in progress, and both he and Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon know these are just the first steps of that project.
The former catcher smacked two homers in Saturday night's split-squad game and has gone 6-for-10 with two doubles and five RBIs in his last three games, so at least he's headed in the right direction.
"I'm just trying to hit the ball hard every single time," Montero said Sunday morning. "I want to show that I can be in the big leagues, and I'm working hard every day."
McClendon sees positive steps the last few days, although he used a less flattering pastoral adjective to describe how Montero had performed previous to that. The manager knows the transition to first isn't easy, but he expects the 24-year-old Montero to put in the effort to make it happen, while showing he has the dedication required to rekindle a once promising career.
"He was better the last few days. We'll see how it goes," McClendon said. "He's doing better. He knows what he's got to do. The ball's in his court and he's starting to play a little better. He's still got to get himself in better shape, and he's still got to drop some weight."
McClendon acknowledges that first base is not the easy position to learn some would suggest it is, and Montero says he has to balance finding his way around first with making noise at the plate.
"This is a new position for me but I don't want to forget about my hitting, so I'm making sure I'm working hard at that every day," Montero said. "At first base, I've been learning from [Justin] Smoak and Logan Morrison and the coaches. They teach me something every single day."
Mariners hope new plane helps travel woes
PEORIA, Ariz. -- The subject was third baseman Kyle Seager, who at age 25 last year led the Mariners with 160 games played. That's a significant number for any player, but perhaps more impressive because Seager plays for the team that annually leads the Majors in airline miles.
"With our travel schedule and the length of our travel, it can be kind of tough and exhausting on the young players sometimes, or the veteran players for that matter," Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said.
But, according to McClendon, there's a little bit of relief in sight this coming season because the Mariners will be using their own private jet, which can be customized to help make all those air miles go a little bit smoother for the players who'll need to stay sharp when the plane lands at its next destination.
"I think the one thing that's going to really help us quite a bit is our travel arrangements this year," he said. "We have a private plane that will help quite a bit. It's more suited for comfort for the players and a little less wear and tear on their bodies. I think that's going to help quite a bit."
• Another day, another lineup without Robinson Cano. But that may change Monday, when McClendon hopes the star second baseman will be ready to go after being out since Wednesday following a root canal. "We'll see how he feels. The plan is to get him in there, but we'll see," McClendon said.
• Young starter Taijuan Walker continues to make progress after shutting down for a week to rest a sore right shoulder, coming out of a Saturday throwing session with no issues. A timetable for when Walker might take to the Cactus League mound isn't set yet.
• Fernando Rodney allowed a two-run single in Sunday's 9-8 win over the Rangers to run his spring ERA to 16.20 through his first two outings, but McClendon has no concerns with the team's new closer. "The thing with Rodney is he just has to get out there and get his reps," McClendon said. "He's a little rusty right now. He had a little setback earlier in the camp. We'll get him out there more consistently in the next week, week and a half. He'll be just fine."
John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @JohnSchlegelMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.