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Montero makes season debut in cleanup spot

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Montero makes season debut in cleanup spot

SEATTLE -- So much for a soft landing.

Designated hitter Jesus Montero, recalled Thursday from Triple-A Tacoma, will hit cleanup when he makes his Major League season debut Saturday against the Rangers.

"We got to put somebody in the four-hole," Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said. "There's a left-hander on the mound. … He's got some power and maybe he'll run into something behind [Robinson Cano]. How's that?"

The plan is for Montero, a right-handed hitter, to DH when the Mariners face left-handed pitchers, according to McClendon. But that's not necessarily a permanent arrangement.

"Everybody has a chance to hit their way into the lineup. I've said that before. Managers don't make the lineup," McClendon said. "If he goes 3-for-4 and hits a three-run homer, there's a good chance he'll be in the lineup tomorrow. That's the way it goes."

Montero was considered one of the top prospects in baseball before last season. Early in 2013, he was demoted to Triple-A Tacoma after struggling offensively and as a catcher. He underwent knee surgery, then got suspended 50 games for his involvement with Biogenesis, a Miami-based, anti-aging clinic accused of supplying performance-enhancing drugs. Montero's stock dropped when he showed up to 2014 Spring Training overweight and ran out of time to make the team.

But McClendon said Montero has worked his way into better shape, though he still has a "ways to go."

"He got better as the spring went on. He showed some pop as he got in shape, the bat speed came back," McClendon said. "It was a tough year for him, the previous year, for obvious reasons, but I think he's bouncing back, I think he's eager to make amends and contribute and help this team any way he can."

Montero didn't speak to MLB.com Saturday afternoon. He was taking batting practice -- at times receiving one-on-one instruction from McClendon -- then shagged groundballs at first base, a position he played with the Rainiers.

He hit .270 with 15 doubles, eight home runs and 40 RBIs in 59 games with Tacoma this year. If he can approach that level of production in Seattle, he'd be arguably the second most productive hitter on the team.

But for now, he'll play when the Mariners face lefties. In 97 games, Montero is a .320 career hitter against southpaws.

"I for one am rooting for the kid," McClendon said. "I hope he's all the way back and I hope he has a great game tonight."

Adam Lewis is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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