With the Mariners’ pitching staff struggling mightily in recent weeks, is Mike Montgomery the answer hidden in plain sight?
It’s no secret that it has been a struggle lately for the Mariners pitching staff, particularly their starters. In fact, Mariners starters went from averaging 6 1/3 innings pitched per start in April, 6 in May, 5 1/3 in June, and all the way down to a dismal 5 in July coming into tonight’s game against the Royals. It shouldn’t be too much of a surprise–the M’s are missing two of their best three starters in Taijuan Walker and Felix Hernandez. Wade Miley has spent time on the DL recently as well. Many have probably already forgotten Adrian Sampson, who was placed on the 60 day DL the other day. While frustrating for the team and for the fans, the disaster can be viewed as an opportunity by some.
Lefty reliever and Mariners starter in 2015, Mike Montgomery will be the next pitcher to get a chance when he’ll be given a “spot start” on Sunday for Walker. Of course, “Monty” is still coming out of the bullpen, so he may not be under the same sort of pressure as a Wade LeBlanc or a David Rollins; two pitchers that are competing for their livelihoods and a big league contract. Monty has his place as a power lefty long reliever on the team, but could he be more?
It was around this time last year that Montgomery had to be on top of the world. To be exact, on July 1st we were talking about a man that just threw a one-hit complete game shutout. It was his 2nd shutout in a row in his 6th game pitching for the Mariners. Mike was spot on with his fastball then, only throwing for around 92 mph, but with a very good curve and change, and usable cutter. Monty would eventually lose the feel for his fastball, and his job as an M’s starter.
Monty is pitching out of the bullpen this season, boasting an ERA of just 2.15 and a 1.05 WHIP. Wildness early in the season may have cost the Mariners a game or two. However, It appears he could be returning to the form he showed then in 2015, when he was so dominant. Could he be returning to the rotation after just one spot start? Probably not, but let’s say he throws 7 shutout innings, do you not run him out there again for another try? As it is in baseball, you NEVER really know ANYTHING for sure when it comes to predicting a player’s success. We will have to see to find out, and I am excited for his start Sunday against the Astros in Safeco, going into the break.
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One thing that I can say for certain is that Mike Montgomery has terrific stuff. If he were to lose a mph or two on his fastball moving to the rotation, he would still be among the league leaders in fastball velocity for a lefty. His cutter seems to have improved and his curve and change are still very good out-pitches for Monty. You have to admit, if he can continue to have good command and throw strikes, he and Paxton could paint a bright future for lefty starters in Seattle.
Fortunately for Servais, he has the benefit of a little more time to figure it out. However, when both Walker and Hernandez return to the rotation, there will be life-changing decisions made that will pave the way toward the Mariners’ future. As fans and writers, we get to ask the question that Servais may not currently have an answer to himself: “Who are the 5 best starting pitchers on the team? injured or not.”
Despite their struggles this season, I think it is safe to say that Felix is #1 and both Taijuan Walker and Hisashi Iwakuma are in the top 5 as well. James Paxton certainly cemented his role with his performance last night in Kansas City; hopefully he can learn to throw to someone that isn’t a catcher soon. So that leaves just one spot left, so who’s your guy? I pick Monty.
If you were Scott Servais, which pitcher would you trust most to be your 5th starter right now? Let me know in the comments below.
Wade Miley, Nathan Karns, Wade LeBlanc, Mike Montgomery, or Edwin Diaz.
By Collin Ferguson @ Collin-Ferguson.com & EmeraldCitySwagger.com