MOOSIC — Jordan Montgomery was out for a run Friday afternoon at PNC Field. Just one day after he made his return to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders’ rotation, pitching three innings of one-run baseball in Rochester.
After an impressive start to his rookie campaign, tallying a 7-6 record and 4.00 ERA as the New York Yankees’ No. 5 starter, he’s is back with the RailRiders. But if he had a choice, he’d still be with the big-league club.
Montgomery has an innings limit now. So instead of staying with New York and moving to the bullpen, the towering southpaw is back with the RailRiders making starts in a limited capacity, like he did Thursday against the Red Wings.
“It’s been a good year. Just trying to learn as much as I can and do what I can do for the team,” Montgomery said. “They’re just trying to take care of me. They’re looking at more of the big picture and I’m looking at more of this year. It’s good that they want to do that, but I’m just going to get my work in down here and finish off September, and hopefully the playoffs, as much as I can.”
But Montgomery is taking his innings limit in stride. He’s just staying ready as he waits for the phone call telling him it’s time to return to the Yankees. A place where even though he’s had a successful season up to this point, Montgomery knows he hasn’t tapped into his potential just yet.
“My changeup has gotten a little worse, but my slider and curveball have really picked me up, up there,” Montgomery said. “Still don’t really think I’ve thrown the way I’m capable of up there yet, so that’s a positive thing. Just trying to make it click.”
The combination of his fastball and curveball is what Montgomery contributes most to his success with the Yankees.
His curveball has turned into a nice punch-out pitch for him.
“Curveball’s been really good for me,” Montgomery said. “Stealing strikes. Just been throwing it in the dirt and they’ve been swinging.”
With the help players like CC Sabathia, Montgomery has learned to focus on the little things. It’s veterans like Sabathia that has helped him grow as a pitcher.
“CC and all of the other guys have been really good to me. Taken me under their wing,” Montgomery said. “I’m just thankful for him. He’s a great dude, great friend. Helped me a lot.”
Both RailRiders manager Al Pedrique and pitching coach Tommy Phelps were in agreement. Not much has changed about Montgomery since he last pitched for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in the 2016 Triple-A National Championship game last September.
He has just continued to perfect his game.
“He looks good. He has four pitches he can throw for strikes and use at any count,” Phelps said. “He has good downhill angle and hitters don’t see him that great. All of those are good ingredients for being able to keep hitters off balance. He’s shown he’s been able to do that, especially at the major-league level.”
Montgomery contributes the Yankees’ success this year to the way the clubhouse has meshed. With a blend of younger players like Montgomery, Luis Severino, Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge and Clint Frazier and veteran players like Sabathia, Brett Gardner, Chase Headley and Todd Frazier, the clubhouse has built a bond that’s turned into wins on the field.
It’s what makes him yearn to return to the team and help with the playoff push.
“Those are my guys up there. I’m fortunate enough to have them up there,” Montgomery said. “Have a bunch of young guys make the locker room a little more fun, but the older guys are great, too. We’ve meshed really well. We have good guys that haven’t even been up there yet. Core Four, it’s going to be more like a Fantastic Eight or something like that because we have so many guys.”