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Montero embracing opportunity for fresh start

D-backs catcher miffed by 2013 results after strong offseason program

MESA, Ariz. -- You don't need to look at video, or study the numbers to understand that the 2013 season was a tough one for Miguel Montero.

You simply have to hear this: "There were times I got up and it was time to go to the field, and I was like, 'Really? I don't want to go to the field,'" the D-backs catcher said. "That's a bad feeling because I always want to go to the field."

If you doubt that's true, ask around the D-backs clubhouse. It is a well-known fact that Montero is almost always upbeat, encouraging and has a passion for the game that runs deep. In the past, he would count the hours until it was time to head to the ballpark.

So for Montero to dread going there on some days, you knew things had to be tough.

And they were.

In 2011 and '12, Montero posted on-base plus slugging marks of .820 and .829 and his OPS-plus numbers were 121 and 123 (100 is the Major League average).

Last year, Montero slumped to an OPS of .662 and his OPS-plus was 83.

"Unfortunately, I couldn't find my timing, I couldn't find my swing," Montero said. "It was one of those things where you keep working and you can't ever find it. It was one of those years."

It was not just on offense that Montero struggled, his defense seemed to be in a funk as well, whether you look at advanced metrics or more basic stats like percentage of runners thrown out.

"Last year was disappointing because I wasn't throwing guys out like I had," he said. "Nothing seemed to be going my way."

What made it all the more perplexing was that Montero reported to Spring Training last year in arguably the best shape of his life having changed his diet and lost weight.

"I felt like I was ready to go," Montero said. "I had worked harder than I had in any other year, it just didn't work for me. It was like, 'Man I put in all this work and I'm not seeing any results.' That doesn't mean I'm going to stop working, because that's not what I took from it."

Montero was on the disabled list from July 29 until Aug. 28 last year with a strained lower back, but he refused to use his back issues as an excuse for a poor season.

And when the season mercifully ended, Montero was eager to get started on his offseason program.

But as it turned out, 2013 was not going to be a good year for him even when the baseball season was over.

The week after the season ended, Montero began to feel some pain just below the index finger on his left hand. What seemed like a minor irritant turned scary when it was discovered he had a serious infection. D-backs hand specialist Dr. Don Sheridan wound up performing surgery to clean out the infected area on Oct. 6.

After Montero spent time in the hospital, the wound was left open to heal and Montero was forbidden from working out, because if he sweated, he risked getting another infection in that area.

So when the calendar finally flipped to 2014, you can bet Montero was one of the happiest people around.

"It was a tough year overall, but this is a new year and I have to move on and leave last year in the past, and start from zero again this year," he said. "It's a fresh start and I'm looking forward to it."

The D-backs hope that the new beginning allows Montero to regain his 2012 form, because he is an integral part of their lineup not just offensively, but defensively as well.

"You could argue the catcher is the most important guy on the field," manager Kirk Gibson said. "It's a huge responsibility. It's a very demanding position physically and mentally. He's in the past been up to the challenge and I expect he'll bounce back good this year. Players have off years. If you play long enough it's going to happen to you. You do have to put that behind you. I've got a good feel about where he's at."

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for Read his blog, Inside the D-backs, and follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB.

Arizona Diamondbacks, Miguel Montero