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Why Yankees’ rookie Jordan Montgomery resembles a veteran southpaw

He has just seven major league starts under his belt, and he isn’t eulogized like the other rookies on the roster. But maybe that’s how Jordan Montgomery likes it.

What he can’t like, however, was his lackluster performance for the Yankees on Thursday night, as the hometown Royals scuffed up Montgomery (2-3, 4.81 ERA) in a 5-1 victory to salvage the series at Kauffman Stadium. For some rookie pitchers, adversity is too steep a hill to climb over. Frequently, enough mistakes will endorse a shuttle ride back to the minors for further development. But for Montgomery, who discussed his second straight loss with reporters in front of his locker, he doesn’t think–or sound–like fresh meat.

“I know the fans expect more from me and I expect more from myself,” Montgomery told after allowing five runs on four hits in five innings. “I’m honestly trying not to think of myself as a rookie and making that excuse because I know I’m better than that and I know I’m better than these outings. So I’m going to keep looking at them and try to take the positives from there and learn from the negatives. I’ve always done well under pressure.”

Sure, it’s harsh criticism, and yes, there’s a subtle hint of confidence in his answer. But is that not a healthy mentality? The initial reaction is no, and frankly, Montgomery’s standpoint is fresh, encouraging and desired. For veteran pitchers–successful or defective–time is always taken to reflect, learn and turn the page. So from a maturity standpoint, Montgomery appears to be wise well beyond his years.

Now, this doesn’t mean that he’s off the hook for lackluster outings. To be fair, growing pains are normal and allowed, but Montgomery has shown a few flaws on the bump. Despite a calm, cool and collected presence, the most glaring issue to Montgomery’s makeup is his habit to walk hitters. Luckily, he knows that needs to be fixed.

“I never walked people in the minor leagues,” said Montgomery, who has walked 18 hitters in 39.1 innings. “I don’t know where this is coming from, maybe giving the hitters too much credit. That and home runs. I’ve never had a problem with the long ball in the (minor-league) system or in college, high school, whatever.”

Perhaps his mistakes are due to his over-the-top delivery–or maybe it’s just some jitters–but Montgomery has still shown some promising stuff. So far, he’s struck out 37 without a blistering fastball in his arsenal, and with a combination of deception on off-speed pitches, Montgomery’s an arm that should stick around. 

After all, it was the Yankees’ decision to promote Montgomery, even though he rightfully earned a spot in the rotation with an exceptional spring training campaign. It wasn’t long before coaches and analysts compared Montgomery’s stature and style to a beloved former Yankee in Andy Pettitte, but the rookie’s ability to challenge his opponent and critique himself are veteran traits, and that’s why he deserves more opportunities at the highest level. 

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