Jordan Montgomery’s take away from his first major league start for the Yankees wasn’t so much the aura of Yankee Stadium. A 9 a.m. arrival, two cups of coffee, breakfast and some familiar faces from spring training helped eradicate the nerves before he faced the Rays.
What stuck with Montgomery more was the first inning and one batter in particular. And it wasn’t the guy who homered off him.
Montgomery struck out Steven Souza Jr. and Kevin Kiermaier for the first two outs and the team’s new fifth starter was in the stretch drive of a perfect first inning. But then he walked Evan Longoria on a 3-and-2 pitch and he would rue that at-bat when Rickie Weeks launched a two-run homer to left. He dwelled not on the homer, but the walk after the Yankees’ 8-4 victory. Montgomery did not get the win as he pitched 4 2⁄3 innings, allowing five hits and striking out seven.
Montgomery, 24, threw 89 pitches. “I thought he did a pretty good job,’’ Joe Girardi said. “I didn’t think he had great command of his fastball today but I thought he did a really good job of pitching out of some jams. They had a number of opportunities to score.’’
Catcher Kyle Higashioka, who made his first start for the Yankees, had caught Montgomery more than two dozen times in the minors. “He’s mature enough to know that one pitch doesn’t make or break the outing. He had plenty of time to put up a few more zeros.’’
Girardi was pleased Montgomery was able to quickly rebound from the home run. “You want to see how they respond and I thought he responded well,” he said. “He went back to pitching, put it behind him and got some important outs for us today so we kind of had him on a pitch count today is why I took him out. He was still pitching well but he had not been above 77 pitches. I thought he used his changeup effectively. I thought he used his pitches effectively. Could he have spotted his fastball better today, yes. Could his two seamer have some more run, we’ve seen more run on it, yes. But for the first start I’m pretty pleased.”
Asked if Montgomery would get another start, Girardi said, “I would think so, yeah.’’
General manger Brian Cashman was pleased with Montgomery’s performance, saying, “He made one bad pitch. I thought he did a tremendous job, so a continuation of what we saw in spring training.’’
But for Montgomery, it was a walk, not a home run that spoiled Montgomery’s debut. “You never want to give up a two-run jack in the first inning,’’ he said, “but I just tried to focus on no more [runs] after that and get back after it . . . Two-out walks always come back to get you, so it’s one of the things I’m going to learn from that and try to improve on that.”