DUNEDIN, Fla. — In discussing Jordan Montgomery throughout the spring, Joe Girardi multiple times said the rookie lefthander made him “curious.”
The camp curiosity’s steady performance has put him position to grab a spot in the big leagues.
Getting his second start in a week, the 24-year-old allowed one run, six hits and a walk over five innings in the Yankees’ 3-1 victory over the Blue Jays on Wednesday at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium. The 6-6 Montgomery, who has a 3.20 ERA in six spring outings (two starts), struck out four.
It wasn’t quite as impressive as his start last Thursday against the Rays in Port Charlotte when he struck out eight in 4 1⁄3 innings, but it was more than enough to keep Girardi, well, curious and Montgomery very much in contention for a rotation spot.
“He’s definitely in the conversation,” Girardi said afterward.
Because the Yankees don’t need a fifth starter until April 16, Montgomery, should the Yankees pick him for that slot, would start the season with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Before the game Girardi hinted righthander Luis Severino, who gets his final spring start Thursday against the Phillies in Clearwater, had secured the fourth starter job.
Bryan Mitchell, who seemed to have a hammerlock on at least one of the two open rotation spots three weeks into camp, stumbled badly, which helped open the door for Montgomery, a fourth-round pick in the 2014 draft out of the University of South Carolina.
“I battled and that’s a good lineup,” Montgomery said, pleased with his slider but not much else Wednesday. “I’ll take one earned run . . . I was just a little rushed. Trying to make too good of pitches instead of just attacking the zone. The fifth inning I sort of settled in.”
Opposing team talent evaluators have been impressed.
“Pretty nasty,” one said. “I saw some funky swings, I’m saw the ball on top of some of these guys, they weren’t reading it out of his hand. His sinker has a lot of late movement on it.”
Said another scout: “The stuff wasn’t as good as last time out but he found a way and made some big pitches. I think he can handle the stage [majors], too. I’d take him over Mitchell.”
Girardi has raved about Montgomery, whose fastball typically sits 92-94 mph and throughout camp kept hitters off-balance mostly with a solid changeup, slider and curveball. In some ways, Girardi was more impressed with Wednesday’s outing than the lefty’s previous one.
“When you don’t have your [best] stuff, sometimes people can’t get outs and he was still able to get outs,” Girardi said. “Obviously, we’ve got a lot to discuss here.”
Montgomery went 14-5 with a 2.13 ERA in 25 starts between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last season, going 5-1, 0.97 in six starts with the latter.
“It’s nothing I can control,” he said possibly making the club. “I’m just trying to get outs and keep working.”
And his spring?
“I feel like I’ve had a pretty good camp,” Montgomery said. “Started off a little shaky, got my feet wet facing big-league guys, and then once I got comfortable, I feel like I’ve excelled a little bit.”