Mike Montgomery makes his first start for the Royals
Rejoining the Royals meant going back to square one in a lot of ways for Mike Montgomery. That’s not just because he came back to the team that drafted him. It’s also because he’s trying to re-establish himself as a big-league starter.
Of course, that’s going to take time for a Montgomery after having pitched exclusively out of the bullpen this season. He also had the equivalent of a false start to the season due to a lat strain that hampered him and forced him onto the injured list in April after he’d made four appearances.
Montgomery, who the Royals re-acquired last week via a trade with the Chicago Cubs, will make his second start on Thursday, and he’ll likely be limited to 60-65 pitches as his pitch count progresses with each start.
“I thought for being off for as long as I was, I threw two innings pretty well,” Montgomery said. “I think you get a little tired and you’re going to be a little prone to making mistakes. I think that’s what happened in the third inning. It’s been good just to get on that rhythm of you’ve got your Day 1 stuff, Day 2, and get back in that routine.
“Physically, I feel really good. It’s almost kind of like spring training in a way, again, where you’re building up.”
He looked solid early on in his first start on Friday, his first game action since July 2, but the Cleveland Indians got to him in the third inning for four runs. He finished the night having allowed five runs in two innings (he didn’t record an out in the third).
He’d allowed one run in the first inning on two singles and a pair of groundouts. He retired the side in order in the second inning before fatigue set in during the third.
“It’s been such a weird year,” Montgomery said. “I think I’ve got 29 innings this year, so it’s not like a workload issue. It’s just kind of like getting back into the flow of things.
“I think there’s, for me, a lot of positive stuff to build off of. But it’s also, now, a good chance to get in a good groove and execute as many pitches as you can. I was right there the last game. You kind of take some of those things and build off of it.”
His most recent extended stint as a starter came in 2018 with the Chicago Cubs. He went 5-5 with a 3.69 ERA, 1.35 WHIP and a 2.5-1 strikeout-walk ratio in 19 starts.
While his season as a starter will be truncated, the Royals can afford to take a big-picture approach with Montgomery, who’ll be under club control for two more seasons after this one.
Royals general manager Dayton Moore was pretty clear after completing the trade for Montgomery that the deal was forward-looking.
“The good thing about where we are is we can stretch him out and give him an opportunity for now and for the future,” Moore said last week.
Montgomery isn’t focused on the long term just yet; he’s aiming to make the most of his opportunity late this summer and use that as a springboard into next season.
“When I got traded and learned I was coming here and going to be given the opportunity to start, it was just ‘OK,’” Montgomery said of having a short season as a starter. “You realize it’s getting to be the end of July, you know, 10, 12 more starts, whatever it might be. I’ve got to go out there and pitch everyone like it’s the last so to speak.
“You understand my situation, but it is the end of the year and you want to finish the year on a strong note. I kinda still have that fresh arm, fresh legs, because I haven’t pitched that much. I’ve got to use that to my benefit these last two months when guys start to get tired.”