Montgomery Making Quite The Impression

TAMPA, FL – Talk about making a quick first impression; Jordan Montgomery was nearly perfect in his high-A debut last Wednesday. The 6-foot-4, 225 pound southpaw pitched 6.2 hitless innings in his Florida State League debut against the Lakeland Flying Tigers. Considering he was already leading the farm system in ERA and strikeouts before his promotion, he was already making quite the impression.

[ Charleston beat writer Sarah Brams also contributed to this article]

Montgomery was drafted by the New York Yankees in the fourth round of the 2014 First-Year Player Draft from the University of South Carolina and just under a year later he is already impressing the coaches at the class-A level.

“He had everything working for him [that] night,” Tampa Yankees pitching coach Tommy Phelps said of Montgomery's high-A debut. “From his fastball command to pitching well on both sides with a really good changeup, he was able to speed them up and slow them down to keep the hitters off-balance all night.”

Even before his recent promotion to Tampa, however, Montgomery did all that he could to impress folks in the Yankee organization. He had posted a 2.68 ERA and struck out 55 batters in nine starts in low-A Charleston, both of which led the entire Yankee farm system prior to his call-up.

"He was throwing strikes and putting himself in advantage counts," Charleston pitching coach Tim Norton said. "He was commanding that fastball and beating guys to the chase. The changeup has always been a good pitch for him and the breaking pitches are coming along really well, and everything is really clicking: that’s why he’s gone [to Tampa]."

Montgomery is a left-handed pitcher who is currently throwing between 89-93 miles per hour consistently. He credits his increased speed to his daily workouts in the offseason. Montgomery may also have lost 15 pounds since his last season but he definitely has become stronger.

Throughout Spring Training camp, Montgomery worked on his fastball command, changeup and cutter. He said he threw his cutter a few times in some games when he could and it went well since he got swing and misses, but he doesn’t want to focus on the one pitching style all season.

“Looking back, I probably could have thrown my cutter less [in Spring Training Camp] and gone to my best pitches rather than working on my other ones the whole time,” Montgomery said.

But Montgomery's willingness to perfect his other pitches is serving him well. Known as a fastball command pitcher with a devastating changeup, he has spent his first full season developing his breaking pitches in particular, both the curveball and slider/cutter.

"From the beginning of the season to now you can see more consistency," Norton said of Montgomery's breaking ball arsenal. "It’s been getting better. It’s both; he’s used them differently.

"He’s got depth with that curveball. The slider is a shorter, harder pitch, so typically he will use those differently with righties and lefties."

"He’s able to get the strikeouts using what he knows and by using that curveball on strike three," Charleston manager Luis Dorante added. "It looks great. He’s already got a promotion. He’s one of our best out there. It’s good for him to be at a higher level. He’ll do great."

Montgomery currently has four strong pitches that he can throw for strikes on both sides of the plate including his fastball, curveball, cutter/slider and changeup. He believes his fastball has been helping him the most, but he is quickly getting the hang of his breaking ball with a tight spin. The only thing he needs to work on is his consistency with that pitch.

“Being able to throw those four pitches for strikes on both sides of plate can really mess up hitters timing which is what pitching is all about and that’s exactly what he did [the other] night and didn’t give up a hit,” Phelps said. “He did a great job getting ahead of the counts, attacking the hitters and changing speeds.”

Montgomery is confident with his curveball because he strikes out both lefties and righties with it, but he also said he would like to work on his cutter/slider because he needs to be more consistent throughout the season.

Tampa Yankees Manager, Dave Bialas agrees with Montgomery.

"He’s a left-handed pitcher who throws up to 92 miles per hour so he has the velocity, height, downhill plane and changeup, but it’s a matter of consistency in the game of baseball.”

Even though Montgomery has shown consistency all season and had a great high-A debut game, Phelps said it is in the past and it is now time to get him ready for his next start.

“I want him to stay in the present and execute the next pitch correctly,” Phelps said. “He did both of those things [the other] night, but I want to see him on the nights that he is a little off so I can see how he deals with it mentally and emotionally.”

But Bialas sees a lot of potential for Montgomery and believes that if he keeps pitching like he did in his debut game he won’t have a problem pitching in the big leagues someday.

“I mean he is a great looking prospect,” Bialas said. “He’s a tall, left-handed pitcher – everybody is looking for [that].”

Phelps agrees based upon what he saw in Wednesday night’s game that Montgomery’s pitches are definitely good enough to get major league hitters out eventually and more importantly the confidence is growing in Montgomery too.

“I definitely set the bar really high in my debut game,” Montgomery said. “Now I’m kind of expecting to throw a no-hitter every game… I’m kidding, but as long as I keep throwing shutouts or not a lot of runs, it’ll be a good outing for me.”

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