Montgomery Has New Hope With M’s Pen
It’s hard to believe that a guy who less than one year ago threw back to back, complete game shutouts for the Seattle Mariners could be headed out of Seattle. It was exactly the writing that appeared to be on the wall for M’s starter Mike Montgomery just a few days ago.
Montgomery, out of minor league options, entered spring training battling guys like James Paxton and Nate Karns for the fifth and final spot in the M’s rotation. Failure to capture that role meant Montgomery would be placed on waivers. Given his reasonably good year in 2015, some other team would have picked him up leaving the M’s empty handed after his departure.
Thanks to a slower than expected recovery process for Mariners’ reliever Charlie Furbush, it appears Mike Montgomery is the guy most likely to win a job as one of two left handers in the Mariners’ bullpen. If that scenario plays out as it appears it will, Montgomery will join Vidal Nuno as the pair of lefties in the M’s pen despite the fact that Montgomery has virtually no experience as a reliever.
Montgomery is a guy who’s stock has always been high as a pitcher since the Kansas City Royals drafted him late in the first round back in 2008. In his first several seasons in the Royals minor league system Montgomery had always been ranked as one of the top prospects of his team and in the country.
Unable to work his way out of the minor leagues, the Royals dealt Montgomery to the Tampa Bay Rays in 2012. Montgomery was the after though of a much larger package of star players than wound up in the hands of the Rays. Once there, Montgomery could never seem to find his groove in the Tampa system. Walks and long balls always seemed to be his bugaboo there.
Finally, in 2015 the Mariners were forced to trade Erasmo Ramirez. The M’s knew Ramirez was not going to be a part of their starting rotation plans, and just like Montgomery today, Ramirez was out of options meaning he had to either make the Mariners 25 man roster or be sent packing.
The M’s sent Ramirez packing and Montgomery was the return. He started the year at AAA Tacoma but thanks to a series of injuries in the M’s rotation, on June 2, 2015 Montgomery finally made his major league debut as a Seattle Mariner. He pitched well in that game, throwing 97 pitches over six innings and allowing just one run.
Montgomery continued to be steady. In his next three starts he allowed a total of seven runs in 20.1 innings. Those starts were followed by the back to back, complete game shutouts I mentioned earlier, a feat that had not been accomplish by a Mariners pitcher since Freddy Garcia did it in 2001.
Now Montgomery finds himself looking at a new role in order to find a major league roster spot. He’s made just two, one inning relief appearances so far but the early results look good.
In Montgomery’s first relief appearance of 2016 he allowed no runs on one hit in his one inning of work. The second relief appearance wasn’t quite as shiny but it wasn’t awful either as he allowed one run on two hits in his one inning of work.
Two innings of relief work in spring training does not make a guy into a reliever but these are the kind of small performances that Montgomery can build on. Without Furbush being ready to go come April, the Mariners will have to lean on someone to be a lefty in the pen.
Why not Montgomery? So far, he’s given the M’s no reason at all to think he can’t make this change.