Montero denies involvement with anti-aging clinic

Mariners catcher Jesus Montero on Tuesday again denied any
involvement with a Florida-based anti-aging clinic under
investigation by Major League Baseball.

According to a published report last week, Montero was named in
records belonging to Biogenesis of America LLC, the now-closed
clinic in Coral Gables, Fla., that has purportedly been linked to
performance-enhancing drugs. Montero said he didn’t know why his
name popped up in the records.

”I don’t have anything to do with those people. I know my
agency is handling everything. I don’t know anything about it,”
Montero said.

”I’m here trying to be ready for spring training and the
season. What can I say? It surprised me, too,” he added.

Montero also said his brother, who has the same first and last
name, has nothing to do with the clinic. He’s confident that his
agents, Sam and Seth Levinson, will clear up the matter.

”I just want to focus on baseball,” Montero said. ”They’re
(agents) going to handle everything. …. I know I didn’t do
anything wrong.”

Montero looks leaner than he did last spring, his first with the
Mariners, and attributed that to an offseason conditioning program
in his native Venezuela. He worked on better running techniques
with a trainer, not to improve speed so much as to be more
technically sound.

He said he worked out one or two hours a day, five times a
week.

”This year was nothing about hitting, nothing about catching,
just concentrating on my body and getting in shape and trying to be
better in running and be more flexible,” Montero said.

Montero, 23, batted .260 with 15 home runs and 62 RBIs last
season. He was the Mariners’ starting designated hitter for 77
games and started at catcher for 55.

Montero enters 2013 as Seattle’s expected everyday catcher. He
was brought in last month to be looked over by team personnel to
make sure he was serious about his offseason training program, and
also was invited to manager Eric Wedge’s home with his family for a
conversation about being the everyday presence behind the
plate.

”He was telling me that. That makes me happy,” Montero said.
”That makes me want to work harder now that I’m going to be the
catcher here every day for a long time.”

Montero will be catching a lot of pitchers in spring training,
including left-hander Joe Saunders, whose one-year contract with
the Mariners was announced late Tuesday. Saunders’ deal with
Seattle includes a mutual option for the 2014 season and could be
worth $16.5 million over two years, plus award bonuses, if he
pitches 200 innings and makes 32 starts in each season. Saunders
pitched for Arizona and Baltimore last season and was 9-13
combined. He was 1-0 in two postseason starts for Baltimore.

Saunders will earn $6 million this season, with a $500,000
buyout. He can earn up to $8.5 million next year and the maximum
buyout is $1 million.

Saunders’ll immediately get a shot to be in the Mariners
starting rotating that is filled with questions after ace Felix
Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma. Seattle designated for assignment
first baseman/designated hitter Mike Carp, who was left without a
role thanks to the Mariners’ other offseason moves.

Also getting a chance at a rotation spot will be veteran
right-hander Jon Garland, who signed a minor-league deal as
non-roster invitee.

Garland, 33, did not pitch in 2012 while rehabilitating from
right shoulder surgery but passed his physical. He has a 132-119
career record with a 4.32 ERA. Garland has pitched for the Chicago
White Sox, Los Angeles Angels, Arizona Diamondbacks, Los Angeles
Dodgers and San Diego Padres.

”I’m excited to test the arm and just get the competitive
juices going again and then get back there on the mound,” Garland
said, proclaiming himself fully healthy. ”One hundred percent.
There’s no question in my mind.”

Seattle also signed former Milwaukee reliever Kameron Loe to a
minor-league deal on Tuesday. Loe appeared in 70 games, going 6-5
with a 4.61 ERA last season for the Brewers.