Montgomery Working His Way Back

TRENTON, NJ — — Last season was one to be forgotten for Mark Montgomery as he was demoted from the Triple-A Scranton RailRiders to Double-A Trenton. After a mild shoulder injury in 2013 that led to twin troubles of losing velocity and control, the relief pitcher is fighting to regain the elite prospect status he once had.

Now a full season removed from his injury, Montgomery seems to be regaining his niche on the mound.

"I think I’m on the right track right now," Montgomery said. "Everything feels great. Obviously the biggest worry for me is my shoulder, and it’s been feeling pretty good. The velocity and everything seems to be coming back as well. In the offseason I was just focusing on staying healthy and losing some weight."

Montgomery mentioned his velocity, which had wavered in the wake of his nagging injury. After falling to the upper-80’s the last two seasons, his fastball is now consistently back up to 90-91. Trenton pitching coach Jose Rosado commented on the strides he has seen from Montgomery since the offseason.

"He’s definitely back," Rosado said. "It’s hard to judge a guy who isn’t feeling great, but there’s definitely improvements there from last year. He’s looking like that guy from two years ago. His swing-and-miss slider is back and his confidence is back too, which is the biggest thing for me to see."

In eight innings of work this year, the right-hander has recorded a team-high three saves, allowing only five hits while striking out nine and walking one. The batting average against him is a mere .172, and his two earned runs have resulted in a 2.25 ERA.

The command that he has shown so far this season has been a major turnaround from last year’s campaign when he walked 26 batters in 51 innings. Montgomery feels his numbers speak volumes for the improvements he has made in a year’s time.

"For sure, the walks have been way down so far," he said. "I’ve been getting ahead of guys in the count and putting the ball where I want pretty consistently. The command I have of my slider right now is better than it was before my injury. Everything has been looking pretty good so far."

The 24-year old’s minor league journey began in 2011, when he was drafted by the Yankees in the 11th round. The former pitcher for Longwood University (V.A.) then began his professional career for the Class-A Staten Island Yankees of the New York-Penn League, where he appeared in four games before being promoted to the Class-A Charleston RiverDogs.

In 26 games that season, the Williamsburg, Virginia native recorded 51 strikeouts, 13 walks, 15 saves, and a 1.91 ERA.

In 2012, Montgomery had arguably the best season of his young career. He split his time between Trenton and Scranton, appearing in 46 total games. He finished with a 7-2 record to go along with an impressive 1.54 ERA and 99 strikeouts.

In his last two seasons, however, Montgomery’s numbers certainly regressed. As his shoulder continued to heal in 2013 and 2014, he compiled an ERA of 3.38 and 3.03, respectively. This year, he is simply focused on being a reliable man out of the bullpen and letting the rest take care of itself.

“I just need to go out there day in and day out and be the best I can be. My job is to keep runs off the board and help my team win,” Montgomery said. "You can’t worry about Double-A, Triple-A, that kind of stuff. You just need to worry about competing and whatever happens, happens."

Trenton manager Al Pedrique sees the potential in Montgomery, and believes there is one essential separating him from donning the Pinstripes.

"Staying healthy. That’s key for him," Pedrique said. "He has struggled with his command in the past but this season he has been able to throw that fastball for a strike on any count. His velocity is definitely there, too."

As for Rosado, he is also confident the right-hander will pitch in the Bronx one day, especially if he keeps pitching like he has been this season.

"It’s only a matter of time," he said. “It’s a good quality when you can have command of a fastball and a breaking ball. He just needs to go out there and continue to do his job for us."

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