Jesus Montero’s future in doubt with 50-game ban

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Two years ago, one could have looked at the group of the 14 suspensed Biogenesis players — Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Braun, Nelson Cruz, Jhonny Peralta, Everth Cabrera, Jesus Montero, Francisco Cervelli, Antonio Bastardo, Jordany Valdespin, Sergio Escalona, Fernando Martinez, Cesar Puello, Fautino De Los Santos and Jordan Norberto —  and concluded that, besides Braun, Montero had the most promising future of the group.

Now, the big Montero-for-Michael Pineda trade, which was shaping up as a winner for the Mariners a year ago, might be a dud all around. Pineda just had a setback in his return from shoulder surgery, and it doesn’t look like he’ll contribute for the Yankees this season. Montero showed some promise during his rookie season in 2012, hitting .260/.298/.386 with 15 homers and 62 RBI in 515 at-bats, but he was a total bust in the majors this year, hitting .208/.264/.327 with three homers in 101 at-bats, and the Mariners have given up on him as a catcher.

MLB has yet to make it clear how minor leaguers will serve their Biogenesis suspensions; there aren’t 50 games left in the minor league seasons, so those could linger into next year. Montero, though, is on the 40-man roster and will be suspended as a major leaguer, so he should be able to finish his suspension in September and enter 2014 with a clean slate. Still, nothing he’s done this year suggests that he should be in Seattle’s plans for Opening Day. Justin Smoak has taken a step forward and is likely to remain the team’s first baseman next year. Kendrys Morales and Raul Ibanez are free agents, so the DH spot will be open. The Mariners, though, don’t seem likely to reserve it for him. One imagines they’ll make an attempt to re-sign Morales. Perhaps it’d be better for Montero if they re-signed Michael Morse as a DH instead, since Morse could always shift back to the outfield if Montero emerges. That’s not an option with Morales.

Montero, though, is going to have to prove himself all over again, and that’s probably going to require some Triple-A time. He’s only used up one option year, so that’s not a problem. Since Montero doesn’t have anything going for him except his bat now, he’ll need to mash to earn another chance. He’ll be 24 next year, and if he doesn’t find his stroke then, many will start writing him off.

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Update: A source told NBCSports.com’s Craig Calcaterra that Montero will, in fact, be able to finish out his suspension this year, since he is on the 40-man roster. Minor leaguers given 50-game bans will be forced to sit out the start of next year, since there are only 25-30 games left in the minor league seasons.

Rob Manfred says Tampa Bay must pick up pace on new stadium

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred wants Tampa Bay to work a little quicker on getting the Rays a new ballpark.

Rays Principal Owner Stuart Sternberg has been working for nearly a decade to get a new stadium for the club and signed a three-year agreement with the City of St. Petersburg early in 2016 to search for a site in the Tampa Bay area. Manfred wants that search to pick up some steam.

“I think it’s fair to say we want the process to take on a better pace moving forward,” Manfred said Wednesday night at Tropicana Field, home of the Rays since their first season in 1998.

The Rays were averaging 15,815 fans per game before Wednesday night’s contest against the Toronto Blue Jays. That is just over half the major league average of 30,470. Tropicana Field and its location have been almost universally blamed as the reason for the poor attendance.

“I’ve been pretty clear that they need a new facility here, a major league quality facility in an A-plus location,” Manfred said. “It is time to move that decision to the front burner here in Tampa.”

The matter of how a stadium would be financed has been tabled until a site is determined, but Sternberg continued to express confidence in the Tampa Bay market.

“I’ve had the opportunity to bail on it many times over the years,” he said. “I won’t say this is a slam dunk, it’s certainly not. But I think we can do something that’ll at least double our attendance. That’s a lot to ask for.”

Manfred said Major League Baseball “doesn’t have a firm timetable” for what steps to take if the Rays fail to get an agreement to build a new stadium in the Tampa Bay area, but but added that “it is a topic of discussion in the industry, the lack of progress.”

More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball

Robinson Cano leaves game with hamstring tightness

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Bad news for the Mariners this evening: Robinson Cano left Seattle’s game against the Atlanta Braves with tightness in his left hamstring.

Cano walked off the field after legging out a double — his second of the game — in the third inning. He pulled up as he approached second base and walked off the field, accompanied by a trainer. There was no immediate word on the severity of the injury. The Mariners have a day off Thursday before opening a series at the Yankees on Friday night, so they have some time to evaluate him.

Cano is hitting .277/.377/.460 with 19 homers and 78 RBI on the year.