Martin Griff

Jordan Montgomery continues to get better with each passing start.

TRENTON, NJ -- Jordan Montgomery came into this season with increased expectations. Having advanced all the way to the Trenton Thunder in Double-A in just his second full season, the 23-year-old has impressed a lot of people in the early going, sporting a 4-1 record and a 2.19 ERA in seven starts.

Montgomery was the ace pitcher at the University of South Carolina back in college, going 5-0, 0.93 in five NCAA tournament starts and serving as the Gamecocks' No. 1 starter as a sophomore and junior. His skills as a left-handed pitcher got him drafted in the fourth round by the Yankees in 2014.

He started the professional ranks in 2014 in the Gulf Coast League before moving up to Staten Island. He started throwing harder too at the end of his first year in the minors, finishing with a 2.53 ERA and 35 strikeouts in his final 32 innings. The following year, he was in Tampa and Charleston and had 10-8 record and 2.95 ERA in 2015.

Facing better hitters now at the Double-A level, Montgomery is not worried about the increase in competition.

“[The] competition is definitely getting better and the strike zone’s a little smaller so your pitching needs to carry more finesse,” Montgomery said. “If you miss you pitches, you’re going to pay and it’s just a matter of keeping the misses low.”

Montgomery has been throwing the ball better as the season has progressed and manager Bobby Mitchell thinks Jordan is going to keep improving. In his first two starts, Montgomery only struck out four batters in eleven innings. Mitchell was not worried about his low number of strikeouts though and still believed that Montgomery was going to be another good pitcher to watch out for coming out of Trenton.

“His first start was shaky but it wasn’t bad,” Mitchell said. “Since then, he just continues to improve, throw strikes and use his changeup well.”

Montgomery has a good down angle on his fastball. Despite leading the farm in system in strikeouts a year ago he is not necessarily a big strikeout pitcher, but is able to produce big outings.

Since those first two starts, Montgomery struck out 30 batters in his last 26 innings. Montgomery now averages 8.27 strikeouts per nine innings and has held opponents to a .246 batting average.

Montgomery has said that he has been giving hitters in Double-A too much credit because of how close to the Majors everyone is, but he has been getting more confidence with each outing.

“I’m starting to get some momentum here and getting a feel for these hitters,” Montgomery said. “I’m just trying to throw my best.”

Another thing that he has been doing in Double-A is rely more on his fastball. Even though his best pitch is his changeup, Montgomery has been trying to outsmart opponents by relying on other pitches in various situations.

“I’ve been throwing a lot of fastballs in offspeed counts,” Montgomery said. “I know in my scouting report, opponents are going to know that I have a good changeup. In an 0-2 count, the hitter is expecting the changeup, so I’m going to go with a fastball and get them to pop up.”

His fastball heading into his pro career hovered at around the high 80s but has since then bumped it up to up to 94 mph. Although he routinely averages 90-91 mph on his fastball, it is still pretty good for a young, still developing left-handed pitcher. His changeup has been Montgomery’s key pitch for years and usually clocks in the low to mid-80s mph.

His curveball has been developing for a while now and also is capable of throwing a cutter [which goes from 86-88 mph] and a slider [82-84 mph].

The repertoire is still developing and expanding.  Montgomery does not overpower hitters but he uses his pitch location to the best of his abilities. His mentality is more so trying to jam the batter with well-located pitches. This could have been a factor in his low number of strikes at the start of the season as he was trying to get a feel for the smaller strike zones.

Pitching Coach Jose Rosado is happy with the progress that Montgomery has been making lately.

“Jordan is someone who gets better every time he’s out there on the mound,” Rosado said. “He’s a hard worker and he has a great changeup. What makes him effective is that he can locate his pitches exactly where he wants it to be.”

Mitchell said that the team’s pitching is superb and in turn that has made the pitchers try and get better with each outing. Montgomery is one of those pitchers that has benefited from this and he agrees. He hopes to get even better by season’s end.

“It sets a standard for each guy to go out and get a quality start,” Montgomery said. “I’m just trying to put the team in the best position to win. I’m trying to see if my stuff succeeds and trust in my pitching.”

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