As the Mets debated internally whether to promote prospect Rafael Montero, they sought plenty of opinions. Ultimately, one sentiment prevailed, one that seemed to apply Wednesday night.
"One of the common denominators was they didn't think he was going to be affected by much," manager Terry Collins said. "He knows how to pitch, he knows what he's been doing."
Montero obliged as best he could, though in the Mets' 4-0 loss to the Yankees, it wasn't enough. "I was confident from the first inning until I finished up," Montero said through a translator.
In six innings, Montero allowed three runs and five hits, including a pair of home runs. He walked two but struck out three. But perhaps more importantly, he never appeared overwhelmed by the situation, pitching before 35,577 at Citi Field in the Subway Series against the Yankees' still-undefeated ace Masahiro Tanaka.
"In some ways this is a David and Goliath matchup," general manager Sandy Alderson said. "One guy's never lost and the other guy's never pitched. So, it's interesting. We'll see how many rocks Rafael's got."
At 6-feet, 186-pounds, Montero won't be mistaken for Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler or Noah Syndergaard, the high-octane triumvirate that represents the top of the pyramid for the Mets.
With a low 90s fastball, Montero is cut out of the mold of Dillon Gee and Bartolo Colon. But Montero experienced firsthand some of the differences between Triple-A and the big leagues.
"I just kept trying to throw strikes," Montero said. "That's the most important part for me in the game."
Minor league hitters might not have been able to grind away at Montero. But the Yankees exercised patience. They flicked away perfectly good pitches. They extended at-bats. They sent Montero's pitch-count soaring. The paper cuts added up.
After three innings, Montero had already thrown 68 pitches.
He was also victimized by his defense, when leftfielder Eric Young Jr. made the ill-fated decision to make a diving attempt on a sinking liner by Brian Roberts. The ball hopped by Young and rolled to the fence, allowing Yangervis Solarte to score.
"I just got a little over aggressive right there in that situation," Young said. "I was trying to make a play for the kid, get him out of the inning. I ended up hurting him."
Yet, Montero absorbed the blow, calmly retiring his counterpart Tanaka to end the inning.
But in the fourth inning, Montero left a belt-high fastball up in the zone to Solarte, who sent a rocket into the stands in rightfield to make it 2-0. In the sixth, surging Mark Teixeira got a 90-mph fastball on the outer half of the plate and hit a moonshot to right-centerfield that landed in the Mets bullpen. It put Montero in a 3-0 hole.
Just as had been expected, Montero emerged from his debut unfazed. "I was very impressed," Collins said. "This kid's going to be good."