The New York Yankees' vaunted "best rotation in baseball," featuring Frankie Montas as a fifth starter lined up behind co-aces Gerrit Cole and Carlos Rodón, might actually materialize this season.
Unfortunately, if it materializes at all, it'll be during the stretch run, when a theoretical contender like the Yankees should probably have everything in the rotation figured out already.
By then, any bonus the team gets from Montas will likely be in the bullpen. While he intends to get back in 2023 -- nay, demands it -- and reportedly began a throwing program on this past Tuesday, the Yankees can't rightly bank on their 2022 trade deadline acquisition contributing in a meaningful way this year.
Assuming the same level of ramp up as cool down, Montas will be back in New York in September, at which point his "rotation spot" will be occupied by Clarke Schmidt, Domingo Germán, or a trade deadline fortification who does what he could not and stays effective for the whole second half after being targeted.
And that's, of course, without a setback.
Yankees Frankie Montas Injury Timeline: See you in September?
It's no doubt good news that Montas is finally preparing to contribute to this team. Fans who grew weary of his 2022 contributions never saw the real Montas; he later admitted, after succumbing to surgery, that his shoulder hadn't been quite right when the team acquired him.
A fully healthy, full-strength Montas, soaking up any and all available innings, could be a devastating weapon in September, when the rest of the rotation is running on relative fumes. Maybe Nestor Cortes Jr. continues to struggle during his third time through the order, and Montas takes care of the fifth, sixth and seventh in a few big games during a September spring? The possibilities are endless -- but we just can't count on them right now.
Whether or not Rodón returns, Montas has been made largely irrelevant by design. The best version of the 2023 Yankees features the right-hander as a welcome late-stage bonus rather than an important foundational piece of the postseason roster. They have to plan as if he doesn't exist, and it's on him to prove otherwise. Tuesday was the start of that process.