Jordan Montgomery literally came out of nowhere in 2017 to earn a spot in the New York Yankees starting pitching rotation. He went to big league camp as a non-roster invitee, earned the No. 5 spot and went on to win nine games.
It's been slow …
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It's been slow going for the 6-foot-6-inch left-hander ever since. It earned him a spot in the rotation in 2018, but for only six games as he ended up having to have Tommy John surgery. He was out in 2019 until September when he made a pair of short-inning appearances.
He came to spring training this year hoping to earn a spot in the rotation again. He had done that as manager Aaron Boone had announced. That has obviously been delayed with Major League Baseball cancelling spring training and suspending the start of its regular season due to the coronavirus.
Montgomery, the former Sumter High School, Sumter P-15's and University of South Carolina standout, would like to be closing in on the start of the season, but he's doing his best to be ready when the call to start the season does come.
"Yeah, it's a little frustrating I guess, but there is nothing anybody can control," Montgomery said to the shutdown. "We have to understand it's for the safety of everybody. It's bigger than baseball, it's bigger than me.
"I'm going to be just as healthy as I am now as when the season starts. I'm going to continue to work hard, to concentrate, and know it is not the offseason. I'm going to put the work in, which has never been a problem for me. This will be a chance to be at home, around my family, and work hard and before you know it it will be over."
Montgomery said he and his teammates weren't surprised when the suspension of the season came down.
"Once the NBA suspended their season I knew it was only a matter of time before we suspended ours," he said. "Everybody was ready for it and then it was kind of the domino effect."
The Yankees organization had two minor leaguers diagnosed with the coronavirus. Montgomery said he knew neither of them and wasn't concerned about being exposed to them since the big league camp and the minor league camp are in two different facilities in Tampa, Florida.
Montgomery was having a strong spring. He had thrown 11 innings in four appearances, having struck out 16 while just walking one. He had allowed just seven hits, even though four of them were home runs, giving him an earned run average of 4.09.
"Everything's been going great," Montgomery said. "Had a really good offseason, put in a lot of work. I got to spring and it showed it had paid off."
Montgomery said he came to spring training with the knowledge he was going to be in the running for a rotation spot.
"No, they knew I was going to be a starter, whether it was Triple-A or there (in New York)," he said. "They weren't going to mess with my routine or anything, especially coming off of that injury."
"That injury" came in May of 2018 with the surgery coming in June. Montgomery was off to a 2-0 start after going 9-7 as a rookie. He was pitching against Houston, throwing seven pitches in a perfect first inning. That would be the last time he'd pitch until September of 2019,
"I'd gone into that game with arm pain," Montgomery said. "For a couple of games, it had been hurting. I got out there with the adrenaline and I could almost bare it. I threw a couple and I knew it just wasn't right, and I knew it was best for me to just get out of there. It wasn't just one pitch, it was every pitch basically."
Montgomery was pretty sure that Tommy John surgery was in his future.
"Yeah, I told myself that's what it was," he said. "I had a feeling it was, then I got an MRI and it didn't show anything, so that got my hopes up a little bit."
He took six weeks off in hopes of the arm healing. That didn't happen and it was determined he had a tear.
"Wish I had just gone and had the surgery," he said.
Montgomery said he had no qualms about the surgery.
"It's such a normal surgery and guys kind of have the rehab process dialed in now, so it's not really that you're nervous. As long as you put the work in and stay on it, your arm is going to be fine."
Montgomery was happy when he got to pitch in a big league game last September.
"It was just kind of a relief that all of that hard work had paid off and that I had finally gotten back," said Montgomery, who pitched four innings in two appearances. "All of the guys were excited to have me back. It was good to be back with everybody and be part of the team."
While there were a lot of pitchers vying for the five spots in the starting rotation, Montgomery went to spring training expecting to earn one of those spots.
"I had gone into the spring expecting to be there with how my arm was and how healthy I felt. They said I was a different pitcher now. They saw the work that I put in and believed in me. I've just got to keep working hard and stick with it."
He was a different pitcher because of the increase of his velocity. He was throwing from 93 to 95 miles per hour this spring. He's hoping to add another mile per hour or two before the season begins.
Why the uptick in his speed to go with his offspeed pitches and his control?
"Really I just worked really hard. When you have Tommy John, the rehab process gets your arm that much stronger. So body wise, rhythm-wise, mechanics-wise, everything feels stronger and smoother to me right now."
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