Yankees fans will recall only a few openings on the team that would take the field when the season began. There was a battle in right field, another at shortstop to replace an injured player, and finally, the competition for the fifth spot in the rotation. The choice in right field went platinum. But the team also struck gold in Girardi’s surprise choice to join the rotation.
When Yankees manager, Joe Girardi announced his selection of Jordan Montgomery as the team’s fifth starter, it came on the heels of five solid weeks of competition between pitchers who had more name recognition with Yankees fans. Bryan Mitchell, Luis Cessa, James Kaprielian, and even a Mets castoff, Jon Niese.
Girardi defended his selection of Montgomery saying, at the time, he had a curiosity about the tall lefty. He also talked about the plane of his over the top delivery and how much he like the young man’s poise and demeanor on the mound.
Since then, the 24-year-old from South Carolina has settled himself nicely in the Yankees rotation. His overall 6-4 3.65 record won’t knock the socks off anyone, but except for a brief hiccup in May when he lost four four straight decisions with an ERA that reached as high as 4.81, Montgomery has been the go-to guy on the staff.
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Teamed with Luis Severino, Montgomery has formed the nucleus of the only one-two punch the Yankees have had. With Michael Pineda‘s usual up and down dance, an injury to CC Sabathia and a wildly distorted and mysterious performance from Masahiro Tanaka, the team has struggled to find any consistency from their rotation.
And while predictions about Montgomery being the Yankees next Andy Pettitte could be premature, the upside of the similarly built (6’6″ 225 lb) southpaw certainly points in that direction.
While Montgomery doesn’t use a black glove covering everything but his eyes that stare down a batter like Pettitte, he does exhibit the same confidence and body language when he’s on the mound. Speaking with ESPN, teammate Aaron Judge explains it this way:
"“[He has] that quiet confidence to know you can do it,” Judge said. “He is going to go out there and get the job done. He is going to go out there and he has confidence in his stuff. It is not cockiness. It is not showboating. It is just quiet confidence, knowing he can get the job done.”"
Success is not new for Montgomery, who quietly, but very efficiently, marched up the ladder of the Yankees farm system, highlighted by a 14-5, 2.13 season at Triple-A last season.
“I thought I deserved it.”
Typically, Montgomery recalls, telling ESPN about his chances of making the team this year:
"“I thought I deserved it,” Montgomery said matter of factly. “But I didn’t think other people thought I did. If they are not going to do it, you have to throw well enough so they have to.”"
How many 24-year-old rookies on the New York Yankees can get away with saying that and still come off shining in the eyes of nearly everyone? But it was precisely that which caught the attention of Girardi in the spring.
The Yankees will need to throttle Montgomery a bit as the season moves along, keeping a close eye on the number of innings he is throwing, especially if the team moves into October and the Playoffs.
But the Yankees, and especially Girardi, can take some deep satisfaction in knowing they made the right choice back in April, and in knowing they have a genuine keeper from all those fish in the pond.