Montero patiently waits for his chance
DETROIT -- Today's lesson on the randomness of sports and life: If the Detroit Tigers had won one more game or the Texas Rangers had lost one more during the regular season, Jesus Montero would have started as the Yankees' designated hitter in the first two games of the Division Series.
That's because the Yankees' first-round opponent would have been the Rangers, not the Tigers, and Texas would have pitched lefthanders in the series' first two games -- and probably four out of a possible five.
Instead, Jorge Posada got the nod against the Tigers' righthanders. If this series goes five games, Detroit will start five righties. And after three games, Posada is 4-for-8, including a triple, with four walks in 12 plate appearances.
Montero, 21, a rookie who made the roster as the Yankees' backup catcher, can only wait. "It's fine," he said. "I've got to wait for my opportunity. The older guys are going to play first because they have more experience than me. So I know where I'm at right now. I'm here for helping and whatever they need me for the game, I'm going to help and do my best."
Montero made the postseason roster after storming into the major leagues after he was called up when rosters expanded Sept. 1. He hit safely in 12 of his 18 games, batting .328 (20-for-61) with four doubles, four home runs and 12 RBIs.
Montero absolutely crushed lefthanders. He hit .500 (12-for-24) with three doubles and seven RBIs. He hit just .216 vs. righties, but that's where all of his home runs came from.
Montero's late-season at-bats became stop-what-you're-doing events at Yankee Stadium. There's just a special nature to his offensive ability, especially in someone so young.
His time may come as early as the next round, if the Yankees make it and face the Rangers. Or it might not come until next season. "It's a good experience," he said. "I can learn from this and get better."
The Tigers do have two lefthanders in their bullpen in Phil Coke and Daniel Schlereth. Posada hit .092 (6-for-65) as a righthanded batter this season, so it's likely that Joe Girardi would pinch hit Montero or Andruw Jones for Posada against a lefty in a big spot.
Montero, though, has not had a plate appearance since the Yankees' regular-season finale Wednesday against Tampa Bay. He went 0-for-4 before leaving the game in the eighth inning after he was hit in the finger with a ricocheted pitch behind the plate. So what has he been doing since then? A lot of batting practice, a lot of catching pitchers in the bullpen, a lot of waiting for his chance.
"I don't know what's going to happen," he said. "I'm just going to do my best. The days that I don't play, I've just been working every single time in the cage and catching bullpens and all that to be ready. Every single day, I do my extra work to be ready for the game. I've got to wait. I know."