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Originally published June 6, 2013 at 6:02 PM | Page modified June 7, 2013 at 1:05 PM

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PED suspicions another hit to Jesus Montero’s deteriorating reputation

We may never know the truth about whether or not Montero used performance-enhancing drugs, but it will be up to him to reclaim the trust he has lost.

Times staff columnist

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OK, when did Seattle become a hideout for doping athletes?

Seriously, this is getting ridiculous. First, the Seahawks go on a two-year Adderall binge. Now, Jesus Montero, the Mariners’ struggling slugger, is among 20 players that Major League Baseball will seek to suspend in the Biogenesis scandal, according to ESPN.

It’s so un-Seattle that you don’t know how to react. Is there a way to blame David Stern for this, too?

No longer pushovers, our highest-profile pro teams are now burdened with the label of pill-poppers. Or however they put this junk into their systems. It has to stop before someone develops ’roid rage and tarnishes this city’s passive-aggressive image.

Nice, clean-cut, do-the-right-thing, play-within-the-rules Seattle is experiencing a strange rash of performance-enhancing drug issues. The NFL has suspended five Seahawks over the past two years, and it thought it found a sixth violator, but All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman won his appeal. Now, Montero might be primed to add the Mariners to this stigmatizing club.

Of all the Seahawks’ characteristics that we wish the Mariners would copy, PED innuendo did not make the list.

For Montero, a bad year continues to get worse. His past two weeks might have been career-altering. First, the Mariners demoted him to Class AAA Tacoma on May 23 because he was hitting .208 and playing shaky defense as a catcher. Then, he was diagnosed with a torn meniscus in his left knee last Saturday and will need 4-6 weeks to recover from surgery. Now, after playing under the cloud of this festering Biogenesis scandal since spring training, it appears repercussion time is coming. If Major League Baseball suspends Montero for 50 games or more, this rough year will turn into a lost year. And his reputation as potentially one of the game’s next great power hitters will include an ugly question mark.

That said, let’s also explore the possibility that what happened in that infamous Miami-area clinic will remain unknown and go unpunished. If MLB commissioner Bud Selig is relying only on the mouth of sketchy Biogenesis founder Tony Bosch, the league has a weak case to suspend Montero, Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Braun and the rest of the accused.

If there are no positive tests and no compelling evidence beyond Bosch’s testimony, this could turn into a fiasco in which the truth hides behind collective-bargaining agreements and stellar lawyering. The league would’ve acted already if it had this case nailed, but it doesn’t seem to be that solid yet. Though baseball is right to be proactive, Selig must proceed with caution.

Still, the smoke billowing from this Biogenesis story is enough to convict many of these players in the court of public opinion. Rodriguez has no benefit of the doubt left. And there has been plenty of distrust for Braun, who won his appeal of a positive doping test in February 2012.

It’s easier to trust and, if it comes to it, defend the 23-year-old Montero. He is a young player who has represented himself well. But there’s no denying this Biogenesis stuff raises legitimate questions about what kind of prospect he really is.

If he did use performance-enhancing drugs, how long was he on them? Long enough to explain why his slugging percentage dropped to .327 this season?

Does Montero’s relationship with A-Rod make you suspicious? After the Mariners traded Michael Pineda for Montero before last season, Montero often talked about A-Rod’s influence on him, how he took the young hitter under his wing with the New York Yankees. Because Rodriguez’s life has been such a well-documented disaster of late, it’s hard to imagine his influence being all positive and nurturing. If they were that close, it’s easy to assume Montero was introduced to A-Rod’s dark side.

You hope not, but hope is flimsy. One thing is clear: Montero isn’t the same player who hit .328 during an 18-game stint with the Yankees in 2011. In 135 games a year ago, Montero hit .260 with 15 home runs and 62 runs batted in during his first full major-league season. This season, he’s hitting like Chone Figgins.

Was he so overwhelmed defensively that he lost his edge at the plate? Or has he lost a far more sinister edge?

You get the feeling that, no matter how baseball reacts to the Biogenesis scandal, we still won’t have a clear answer to that question.

It’ll be on Montero to show the desire and mental toughness to reclaim what he has lost. He doesn’t qualify as a can’t-miss prospect anymore. Sadly, for the Mariners, no such creature exists in their rebuilding effort.

Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or jbrewer@seattletimes.com.

On Twitter @JerryBrewer

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