Mets RHP Rafael Montero is beginning to live up to the coaching staff's challenge after winning back-to-back starts for the first time.
After pitching 8 1/3 shutout innings last Wednesday against the Reds, Montero continued where he left off in Monday's 11-7 win over the Phillies, only allowing one run through five innings before running into trouble in the sixth.
"When I came in I was little bit off, but I tried to bounce back," Montero said, according to the Associated Press, after giving up four runs, five hits and five walks in 5 1/3 innings. "I fell behind the (count) against the batters and that's where I started to give up the walks."
Montero started the season 0-4 with an 8.24 ERA in 13 appearances (two starts) and was demoted to Triple-A Las Vegas in May. He returned to the rotation in June, and when he did, manager Terry Collins and the other Mets coaches challenged him to improve his pitching.
"He was told by the pitching coach, by me, by his own peers that if you can't throw the ball over the plate you can't pitch here,'' Collins said, according to Newsday's Steven Marcus. "We said we either see strikes or, you know ... he went down and threw strikes. And he's come back and he's done exactly the same thing. When you have good stuff and you throw it in the strike zone, you're going to get outs. And he's done that since he's been back. He's thrown strikes, he's using his changeup more.''
In five starts since Aug. 14, Montero is 3-1 with a 2.90 ERA.
While Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard and the other pitchers in the Mets' rotation look to get healthy toward the end of this season and for the start of next, Montero said he is not concerned about what that means for his spot on the roster in 2018.
"I'm just going to continue to do my job and I don't have control over that,'' Montero said, according to Marcus. "So I've just got to work hard. I'm here to do my job regardless of what happens with, unfortunately, the injuries with other pitchers.''