In a loaded Yankees farm system, it is easy for prospects with considerable upside to slide under the radar. In his second full professional season, 23-year-old pitching prospect Jordan Montgomery has recently been promoted to Triple-A Scranton-Wilkesbarre. After being drafted out of the University of South Carolina in the fourth round of the 2014 draft, the 6'6" southpaw has blown past the lower and middle levels of the minors. In 19 starts at Double-A Trenton this year, he had a 2.55 ERA with 8.5 K/9.
Just one level away from the Bronx, he was kind enough to take the time to do an interview for Pinstripe Alley. He was very fun to interview, and I am sure fans will love the opportunity to get to know the exciting southpaw:
Nikhil Chaturvedi: First things first, congratulations on your promotion to Triple-A. What's it like knowing you're one step away from the big leagues?
Jordan Montgomery: It's pretty cool. I've just been working hard trying to get through the system as fast as I can, trying to make my debut. But I'm just going to be patient and keep trying to throw well down here.
NC: Especially after the Trade Deadline, the Railriders roster is loaded with talent. I know you just got promoted but is there a greater sense of excitement around the team?
JM: Yeah, being around Judge and with Clint around now, we have a lot of the top guys on our team. There's a lot of talent. It's shown through the season they've been having, and we're playing well right now.
NC: Does flying under the radar motivate you, or do you wish you were getting more recognition?
JM: It really doesn't matter to me. I know what I can do and how I've been doing this season. I think publicity is just publicity. Your stats and your games speak for themselves.
NC: That makes sense. You probably saw this question coming. Do you see yourself reaching the big leagues by the end of the season?
JM: I don't know, it's up to them. It could happen, it could not happen. I'm just happy to be here in Triple-A this year. That was my goal.
NC: You threw about 130 innings last year. I'm assuming that wouldn't be an issue if they wanted to call you up, right?
JM: I have no innings limit, so I can throw as many innings as I need right now.
NC: Switching gears a bit, we wanted to help the fans get to know you better. Being born and raised in South Carolina, was it always just kind of set in stone that you were going to stay there for college?
JM: No, well I only got three college offers... Fortunately I chose South Carolina, as well as they had been playing.
NC: Your old college teammate Tyler Webb is also on the Railriders. What's it like being back in the same clubhouse?
JM: It's cool, he was one of my good friends at school. I've roomed with him all through spring training every year I've been with the Yankees, so it's cool having a familiar face and a guy I'm good friends with.
NC: What was it like joining a South Carolina team that had just won two straight national championships?
JM: There was a little bit of pressure on us knowing that we were trying to do something that had never been done before, going for a three-peat, but we fell two games short.
NC: I noticed that your Twitter handle is @gumbynation34. Is there a story behind that name?
JM: That was just my nickname going through college, so I made it my sophomore year of school.
NC: I wanted to ask some technical questions as well. Are there any MLB pitchers, past or present that you compare yourself to?
JM: I don't know about throwing wise but mentality wise I compare myself to Jon Lester. Just how he's big and has a big presence on the mound. I like how he fills the zone up and is really aggressive. I think I throw very similar to him in the way I pitch.
NC: During your first two years of college you were striking out about six batters per nine innings. Since then you've been more of a strikeout machine, especially in the lower minors. Did you make any specific adjustments between then?
JM: Yeah, I'm not leaking forward as much anymore. I'm using my legs a lot more, which has made all of my pitches harder and sharper. My fastball has been harder, everything else has been sharper. I would have to say that would be one of the factors that helped me make the big leap for my stuff to get better.
NC: I know you use an over the top delivery. Is that something that always felt right or is there a strategy behind it?
JM: No, it's just always been like that. I've never thrown any other way.
NC: You've been really good about not giving up home runs, just 10 since the start of last year. How have you been so good at keeping the ball in the yard?
JM: I don't even think about that. I just try to keep the ball down and either strike you out or get you out [another way]. You don't really think about that kind of stuff on the mound. You're just thinking outs.
NC: I know you've risen through the minors pretty quickly, but what kind of adjustments have you had to make?
JM: Just the zone getting smaller and guys don't swing in the dirt nearly as much anymore. You almost have to set them up perfectly for when you want to expand [the strike zone]. You have to know the guys you want to go after and know the guys who will get themselves out. But it's still just pitching, you just have to throw strikes and mix speeds.
NC: Is there anything specific that you think you need to work on before you get to New York?
JM: I've been working on a slider recently, for about three outings now. It's getting better and better, so I'm going to keep working on that until it's something I can throw in there for a strike and get groundballs even more consistently.
NC: You're actually doing better against righties this year than lefties, is [the slider] something the Yankees wanted you to work on?
JM: Yeah, my changeup is my best pitch and it works easier to righties, and that's not surprising. But having a slider will help against lefties. It has already.
NC: When you throw a changeup, are you trying to get a big speed difference, or are you trying to get a lot of movement?
JM: A little bit of both. I usually get 10-12 mph off my fastball and it'll fade and drop a little bit. They swing through it a lot of the time.
NC: Was it hard to get that much of a speed difference, or did it come naturally?
JM: I've been throwing it since I was 13, so it just kind of came naturally.
NC: Whenever someone is kind enough to do an interview with us, we like to wrap things up on a more fun note. The question we always ask is: pancakes or waffles?
JM: That's a tough one. I'd probably say waffles. Waffle House is one of my favorite places to go. You have to get the All Star Special with the waffle.
NC: That's a good answer. Thanks for taking the time out. We appreciate you doing an interview with us and we look forward to seeing you in pinstripes soon.