Reds starting pitcher Frankie Montas calls out as he walks...

Reds starting pitcher Frankie Montas calls out as he walks off the field after the fifth inning of a game against the Red Sox on June 22 in Cincinnati. Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster

Usually, when opposing players come to Yankee Stadium, the last thing they’re looking forward to is the crowd: loud, gruff, and historically merciless - there’s a reason “Bronx cheer” has its own entry in the Merriam-Webster dictionary. That truth counts double for the athletes who once donned the pinstripes and fared poorly.

Unless, apparently, you’re Frankie Montas.

Montas, who spent one and a half ill-fated seasons with the Yankees, was back in the Bronx with the Reds Tuesday and is set to get the start Thursday. Despite coming here at the 2022 trade deadline, that will be only the ninth time Montas has taken the mound at Yankee Stadium since Brian Cashman sent four players to Oakland in exchange for him and Lou Trevino - the result of a shoulder injury that saw Montas throw just 1 ⅓ innings in 2023.

And he's actually looking forward to it.

“Definitely the crowd,” he said of what he’ll enjoy the most. “It’s always good to come to Yankee Stadium to play. It’s a great crowd. I can’t wait to see the guys I played with and I have really good memories here, so I’m really excited to see them.”

And there’s reason for that, he said. After shoulder surgery all but ended his season before it began last year, the Yankees became integral in his rehab process. There was even interest in bringing him back on a team-friendly deal before the Reds swooped in and offered him a one-year, $14 million contract with a mutual, $20 million option for 2025.

Though he’s not quite as dominant as he was when he pitched with the A’s, Montas, who was the Reds opening day starter, has been more serviceable than his numbers indicate. He’s 3-6 with a 4.23 ERA in 15 games, but that’s partially due to two rough starts and a less-than middling Reds team around him (sans those two, shortened starts, his ERA is a more respectable 3.26). With the Reds entering Tuesday’s series at 39-45 and in fourth place in an uninspiring NL Central, that means Montas might be on the move come the trade deadline (again).

That’s intriguing for a few reasons: Montas thinks that the long layoff from last year means that he’s just going to get better as the year progresses and his body acclimates, and the Yankees, like a lot of other teams in contention, are always on the lookout for pitching. Though he’s 31, and the small dip in his fastball velocity is indicative of that, he did finish sixth in Cy Young voting in 2021.

Still, Yankees fans may be more than hesitant: In his eight starts with the team in 2022, he was 1-3 with a 6.35 ERA (it was later revealed that his shoulder was already bothering him at that point). He's 40-41 with a 3.93 career ERA over nine seasons.

“This guy has been a very good pitcher in this league,” Aaron Boone told reporters last year after Montas made his sole appearance with the team that season - a scoreless four-out relief appearance. “Still a relatively young man. He’s gotten to spend now over a year with us and really over the last several months as he’s really ramped up his rehab process, I think he’s ingratiated himself down there in the work he’s put in and the leadership he’s shown with some younger guys down in Tampa.”

Like most athletes in his situation, Montas tries not to worry too much about what the future holds. He is, however, open to a potential Yankees reunion - if not this year, then maybe next, if the mutual option with the Reds isn’t exercised. He’s still grateful to them for allowing him to get into a major-league game last season before he was set to hit free agency, he said.

“I’m nothing but grateful to the Reds and the Yankees, to be honest with you, because they were the ones (there) pretty much through my whole rehab,” he said. “They did my whole rehab. They gave me the opportunity to come back last year for one game and it showed that I was healthy and I still have a lot to give to this team. I’m nothing but grateful to both teams.”

He also feels strong and, most importantly, healthy.

“From here, it’s just getting better,” he said. “Every time I step on the mound, I feel better, my arm feels better, my pitches are moving better, so it’s just continuing from here.”

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