The Yankees have needed pitching help for the entire 2019 season, and whenever Jordan Montgomery’s name was thrown around as a potential candidate this year, it was never really viewed as a serous option. Coming off June 2018 Tommy John surgery, getting Montgomery back for any sustainable innings in 2019 seemed more optimistic than realistic.
However, the Yankees have finally gotten good news on the injury front! Montgomery threw two scoreless innings for the Single-A Tampa Tarpons last week, and will throw again with Triple-A Scranton this weekend. That Montgomery is throwing at all in 2019 is impressive, but Aaron Boone said there’s a real chance that he could get prepared enough to be in the big leagues this year.
Now, the last thing the Yankees want to do is rush Montgomery back and re-injure him. The team could use all the pitching depth it can get right now, and Montgomery can probably help out this season. If he gets through two more rehab outings without any issues, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him in the Bronx before season’s end.
It’s unlikely that Montgomery would return in his traditional role as a starter. Instead of stretching him out to 80-100 pitches, which could take about a month, the Yankees might be better served prepping him for a role as a “bulk guy,” or the pitcher who comes in for 2-4 innings after the opener is done with the first inning in a bullpen game.
This would provide the best of both worlds for Montgomery and the Yankees. He gets to pitch in big-time postseason games, and the Yankees get yet another option for a bullpen game. Imagine a potential playoff game consisting of an inning of Chad Green to start, followed by five innings from Montgomery and Luis Severino? That’s probably the one instance in which I’d encourage the use of a bullpen game in the postseason.
Granted, Montgomery doesn’t have much bullpen experience, and his five-pitch repertoire definitely suits him better as a starter than a traditional reliever. As a bulk pitcher, he’d still go through the lineup at least one time over, so it’s not like he’d be used as a lefty specialist.
It should be expected that Montgomery will be a little rusty upon his return. Most pitchers that come back from Tommy John surgery take awhile to get back into their comfort zone. Montgomery has some tools that could help him even as he is still finding himself back on the mound.
For one, Montgomery excels at limiting home runs, which is an incredibly useful trait in today’s era of potentially juiced baseballs and rampant dingers. Montgomery also generates low exit velocity and a high groundball rate, so it’s not like he gets by on his pure stuff anyway. Montgomery is more of a crafty lefty, and you can’t tangibly lose your smarts or edge after Tommy John surgery. As long as Montgomery is doing what he does best, he can help the Yankees.
In the end, we still don’t even know if Montgomery will be able to pitch for the Yankees this season at all. The fact that it’s even a possibility though is a huge development for Montgomery’s chances at resurrecting his MLB career. If he’s strong enough to pitch down the stretch, the Yankees would be well-served to find a role for him.