Anthony McCarron, SNY.tv | Twitter |
Before the Yankees' spring camp opened, Jordan Montgomery figured to be one of a number of hopefuls competing for the fifth spot in the rotation. But with another pinstriped injury-a-thon perhaps cranking up, Montgomery has soared in importance and maybe moved up the pitching depth chart.
James Paxton is out until at least May following back surgery and now Luis Severino is dealing with right forearm soreness and could start the season on the Injured List. Domingo German still has 63 games left to serve on his 81-game domestic violence suspension.
So bump up Montgomery to fourth in the rotation, following Gerrit Cole, Masahiro Tanaka and J.A. Happ, at least for now? Sure, since he has more big-league starting experience than rotation candidates such as Luis Cessa, Deivi Garcia, Michael King and Jonathan Loaisiga.
But the 27-year-old lefty has plenty to prove, too. He only made two MLB appearances last year following rehab from Tommy John surgery. What can he be this season?
"Obviously, if we can turn the clock back to what he was his rookie year, he was a very formidable starter," Yankee GM Brian Cashman says. "He's got no fear, throws strikes and has a number of weapons. His pitch ability is very impressive at this young age and we're looking forward to what he looks like.
"Tommy John is officially behind him. No rehab mode -- just compete mode."
A fit, 2017 vintage Montgomery would be a big boost to the Yankees. The prevailing story in camp has been the Yanks' reactions to the Astros' electronic sign-stealing scandal, but injuries are generating headlines, too, including the worry about Severino, who seemed poised to form a daunting 1-2 combo with Cole.
Not the spring start the Yankees wanted, especially after revamping their training and conditioning departments and coming off a 2019 season in which they sent 30 different players to the IL a total of 39 times, both believed to be MLB records.
Montgomery emerged in 2017, going 9-7 with a 3.88 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP in 155.1 innings over 29 starts. For comparison's sake, Paxton had a 3.82 ERA and a 1.28 WHIP in 150.2 innings in 2019, his first year as a Yankee.
Montgomery made only six starts in 2018 before getting hurt, going 2-0 with a 3.62 ERA. In two September outings last year, he allowed seven hits and three runs in four innings.
Cashman is optimistic about Montgomery, but some others in baseball are more cautious when it comes to his outlook, at least until he can prove he's his old self.
"He's coming off an injury, so I don't think they know what they have in him right now," says an opposing scout. "He was a quick up-and-comer and he put up numbers in the minors. But after the surgery, you don't know if he bounces back and is the same pitcher. Or even better.
"He's got to get out there in competition and they can see what they've got. You want to stay in love with the guy."
The Yankees have said that Montgomery getting some MLB work last season was beneficial, giving him a jumping-off point of sorts for the upcoming full season. He won't have to wonder what it'll be like to be back on a big-league mound, since he's already done it.
Still, says a rival team's executive, that glimpse is no guarantee.
"Everybody knows enough now that when they first come back from surgery, it's a snapshot only," the executive says. "So this all comes down to health. In his first year, he showed that nothing bothers him. He gave every indication that he could pitch in the Bronx and he had the toughness to be there.
"But because of health, he's a 'wait and see' for me. There's reason to be optimistic, but reason to be skeptical, too."