Montero already has curtain call down pat
Anthony RieberAnthony Rieber
Anthony Rieber has been at Newsday since Aug. 31, 1998
There was a moment yesterday when Jesus Montero arrived in the Bronx.
It wasn't when he homered deep into the rightfield stands in the fifth inning. It wasn't when he repeated the opposite-field feat in the seventh.
And it wasn't when John Sterling uttered his Montero-tailored home run call, "Jesus is loose!" (Keep working on it, John. How about "The Full Monty"?)
No, Montero appeared to announce his belief that he belongs here when he jumped onto the top step and then out of the dugout for a curtain call after his first major-league homer gave the Yankees the lead for good in their 11-10 win over the Orioles.
The fans at Yankee Stadium wanted a curtain call and Montero didn't have to be coaxed too hard out of the dugout by his teammates. Sure, Yankees players -- including Jorge Posada -- told Montero to take a bow, but it was clear the rookie had exactly that in mind already.
"I was dreaming of that before," Montero said after his solo shot and two-run blast, both off righthander Jim Johnson. "I've seen Jeter, Posada doing it. I told myself, 'One day, I'm going to be doing that.' "
And he didn't exactly rush back in, either. The moment lingered, and so did Montero.
Two innings later, second curtain call. Same result. Batting helmet in the air, a little wave to the crowd. Montero soaking in the moment.
Call it confidence or swagger or whatever you like. He has it as much as he appears to have uncommon thunder in his bat.
"Johnson's not an easy guy to hit a home run off of because he's got such a great sinker," manager Joe Girardi said. "And I'm not even sure the second one he hit was a strike. It might even have been below the zone.
"We've always said this kid's got a lot of power all over the field and he can drive the ball to right. First home run, it looked like he got a fastball up a little bit. Second one was pretty special."
Is it possible the 21-year-old Montero has been under-hyped? He's 5-for-13 (.385) in his first four games. The Yankees might lose money if fans stay in their seats to watch Montero's at-bats instead of making trips to the concession stands.
Brian Cashman, the man who would have traded Montero to Seattle in July 2010 as part of a package for Cliff Lee if the Mariners hadn't backed out, last week said Montero could be as good as Manny Ramirez or Miguel Cabrera. Girardi, asked if Montero's opposite-field power reminds him of anyone, said "a young Alex,'' as in Rodriguez.
No pressure, kid. Three potential Hall of Famers.
But it seems as though Montero can handle it -- unlike in spring training, when he fumbled away the chance to open the season as Russell Martin's backup. On Monday, Montero showed the right mixture of humbleness and bravado.
"I'm not saying tomorrow I'm going to hit two homers again," he said. "I'll try to."
The first question that had to be answered during this September call-up was whether Montero could handle big-league pitching. (Yes, Johnson qualifies, even if many Orioles don't.)
The second question is what happens if Montero excels at the plate. Does he get 100 percent of the DH at-bats, pushing Posada out of the lineup completely? Does he have to catch every now and then so Girardi can use the DH spot to rest Rodriguez and others down the stretch?
And the big one: Does he get to play in October?
"We project him as a catcher," Girardi said. "Right now, with where we are and what we're fighting for, it's hard to put him back there."
Montero said he's ready to catch if they need him. He's working with coach Tony Peña, catching bullpen sessions to re-familiarize himself with the pitchers, going over game plans.
But Montero's money is going to be made at the plate, not behind it. He's not going to get called out of the dugout by Yankees fans for framing a fastball or blocking a slider in the dirt.
Said Girardi: "I like the way he's handled this. I think sometimes you put a ton of pressure on yourself when you have an opportunity to get there. Well, now he's here. He knows he's going to get at-bats and we're going to see what this young man can do."