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Montero out to prove he belongs in big leagues

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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."

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