Jordan Montgomery found himself exploring a new frontier last week — the mound at Frontier Field in Rochester. He was starting against the Triple-A Red Wings on behalf of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders.
That came after facing the Red Sox on behalf of the Yankees in his previous two starts, first at Yankee Stadium and then at Fenway Park.
It has been an up-and-down experience for Montgomery during the second half. After showing considerable promise as their fifth starter, the Yankees sent down the 24-year-old rookie lefthander three times, but he only pitched that one time. His third call-up came Wednesday so he could serve 26th-man duty as the starter in Game 2 of a doubleheader against the Indians at the Stadium.
Montgomery needed 43 pitches to get through the first inning, allowing four runs, five hits and two walks. After throwing scoreless ball over the next three innings, he departed at 92 pitches in a 9-4 loss that completed Cleveland’s sweep. After the game, Montgomery was sent down for the fourth time.
“You try to learn, take the good out of it,” Montgomery said before the latest demotion..
That’s basically his philosophy now.
His first demotion covered the All-Star break, down July 8, up July 14. Then came the deadline deals late last month for veteran starters Jaime Garcia and Sonny Gray. So Montgomery was eventually optioned on Aug. 7.
When CC Sabathia went on the disabled list four days later, Montgomery was back to fill in for the two starts vs. Boston. Then he got sent down again on Aug. 19 when Sabathia returned.
The Yankees also have been concerned about managing his innings to keep him from exceeding about 180, another reason for his demotions this month. He’s at 138, including three from his Triple-A start and five from his first start of the season with Class-A Tampa.
Montgomery is 7-7 with a 4.15 ERA after his 24 major-league starts this season, but he’s winless in his last five, going 0-2 with a 5.32 ERA dating to July 30. He put a positive spin on his Frontier Field work and the demotions.
“No problem,” Montgomery said. “It gives me a chance to work on stuff. If you think about it negatively, it’s only going to come out negatively. So I’m just trying to be as positive as I can.”
This start started negatively.
“I just didn’t think his curveball was sharp in the first inning,” manager Joe Girardi said.
Could all these up-and-down moves and the innings management had an impact?
“You worry about that when you start doing that,” Girardi said. “But it comes down to the kid’s health and the long-term effects that [too many innings] could have on him.”
Montgomery settled down and allowed just a walk and an infield hit in those final three innings.
“We’re going to need him,” Greg Bird said. “For him to be able to bounce back and give us three solid innings after that, it’s huge.”