How Jordan Montgomery went from spring longshot to Yankees fifth starter
NEW YORK - The Yankees weren't supposed to need a fifth starter until April 16, but the decision came a week early: lefty Jordan Montgomery has won the job, and manager Joe Girardi announced after Monday's game that Montgomery will make his major-league debut on Wednesday, not Saturday as originally planned.
The Wednesday part, per the skipper, came about because Montgomery was on turn - he, along with other competitor Chad Green, pitched in Tampa on April 6, and both were scheduled to throw again on Tuesday to stay on rotation for April 16 - and the Yankees needed to give their top two a breather.
"Because of how hard Tanaka worked in that fifth inning (in Saturday's loss to Baltimore), I actually told Larry (Rothschild) after the game that it might be a good idea to give him an extra day," Girardi said Monday. "I called (Brian Cashman) later that night."
So, Montgomery will go Wednesday, moving Luis Severino back to Thursday and Tanaka and Sabathia back to the Cardinals series this weekend, and Girardi said Monday there's a lot to like about the 24-year-old who's now on the verge of his major-league debut.
"He has a four-pitch mix, with a very good downhill angle, and he's 6-foot-6 and lefty," Girardi said. "His stuff is really good - he's able to use his breaking ball extremely well, and when he locates his fastball it's good - and he has different ways he can get you out. We think he has a chance to be really good."
Montgomery wasn't originally part of the Yankees' spring competition for the final two spots in the rotation, but as the skipper noted, he pitched his way into it during the Grapefruit League slate.
"He was on our radar, but we thought the other guys had a leg up because he only had 10 or 11 starts in Triple-A, and they have been (in the Majors) before," Girardi said. "He just kind of pitched himself into it; his numbers last year were very good in both Double-A and Triple-A, and we thought he pitched extremely well when we started him in Spring Training. That's why he's getting an opportunity."
Montgomery didn't even get the opportunity to start until March 23, but he had made four relief appearances and pitched to 3.48 ERA in those outings - the last four perfect innings to finish out a no-hitter on March 17. The lefty impressed in his two starts, finishing spring with a 3.20 ERA that was third among pitchers who made at least one start (behind Tanaka and Green) before allowing only one unearned run over five innings last Thursday in what will be his final minor-league start for now.
"I think the consistency is what separated him, and when we watched him, there was deception," Girardi said. "You watch some of the swings he got, even when he was behind in the count, and they weren't always good. I know it's a small sample, but sometimes swings can tell you a lot about a pitcher."
So, on Wednesday, Montgomery will be the second Yankee to make his major-league debut in as many games; catcher Kyle Higashioka did so in the ninth inning of Monday's win, and when he found out following the game that the lefty he caught at both Double-A and Triple-A last year was coming to join him in the Bronx, Higgy was ecstatic.
"He deserves it; I knew he had great stuff, and he was working on his consistency, especially the slider," Higashioka said. "Starting last year, progressively it was better and better and better, and it evolved to the point to where when he was taking the mound, you knew it was a shutout."