Yankees: The word demotion does not apply to Jordan Montgomery
The Yankees hand was forced over the weekend and, as expected the team demoted one of their starting pitchers to the minors. Usually, a player gets sent down because he hasn’t been effective. That’s not the case this time, though.
The Yankees knew it was only a matter of time. Jordan Montgomery knew it was only a matter of days. And knowing he was probably making his last start before he was sent down to the minors, Montgomery made sure to leave a lasting impression on the Yankees with seven strikeouts over five solid innings against the Indians, in an abbreviated 65 pitch effort.
Unleashing his twelve to six curve ball to Austin Romine, who moved down to block every one of them in the dirt, Cleveland’s batters were flummoxed, flailing at pitch after pitch.
But it was only a year ago that Montgomery was completing his fourth year in the Yankees organization, having progressed each year up the ladder. Except for Montgomery himself, perhaps, there were few who believed he would have 21 starts wearing the Pinstripes this season.
Jordan Montgomery is a keeper and he’s best kept where he is now.
And when Spring Training began his name frequently appeared in the mix of potential starters, but never before names like James Kaprielian, Bryan Mitchell, Luis Cessa, Adam Warren, and Chad Green.
But then something happened to change all that. He was noticed. And he wasn’t just seen by anyone; he was distinguished by the manager of the team he was trying to make.
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It was in a column I wrote back in April that Joe Girardi developed a “curiosity” about the 6’6″ 24-year-old who looked like he belonged in a major league uniform. Girardi saw the command he had on his pitches, but he saw something he liked, even more, the power Montgomery had over himself.
Montgomery won the battle to become the Yankees fifth starter and never relinquished the spot in the rotation. His 7-6 record and 4.05 ERA is not spectacular. And there was little debate within the Yankees about which starter would be the odd man out when Sonny Gray and Jaime Garcia joined the team at the deadline.
A Blessing In Disguise
Montgomery is an automatic to rejoin the Yankees when rosters expand on September 1. But with four stress filled starts in August, his total innings pitched for the regular season would end up between 175-180, with additional innings tacked on in the Postseason.
The Yankees can now monitor Montgomery’s innings and pitch counts, ensuring that he doesn’t follow the path of the Met’s rotation that was skewered with overwork when the team went to the World Series in 2015.
There is a chance also that last year’s Triple-A Championship won by the Scranton Railriders could be repeated, depending on how far they go this season. This year’s Championship Series does not begin until September 19, and the Yankees could decide to give Montgomery another preview of pitching under stress in additional, though abbreviated, starts in those games.
Whatever the case, Jordan Montgomery is where he belongs at this stage of his career. He had some bumps in the road this season, but he never allowed them to become full-blown. He listened, and he learned while on the job. And the confidence Girardi displayed in him earlier in the season never wavered.
The comparisons between Montgomery and Andy Pettitte are justified but incomplete. They both have the same makeup and presence on the mound. Their fastball tops out at 91-92, but the command of a pitch always wins out over speed. Gritty is usually the word that comes to mind.
The Yankees did themselves and Montgomery a favor by sending him down. A six-man rotation was never in the plans of either Girardi or Brian Cashman. And besides, the Yankees have seen enough of Montgomery to know he fits in their plans for years to come as a number two or three starter.
Next: Is Montgomery the next Andy Pettitte
We’ll see Montgomery back in September and on into October, probably as the team’s first choice long reliever if a starter falters. No doubt, he’ll be “noticed” in that role too.
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