Tuesday night I missed the first two innings of the game against the Nationals, meaning Zack Wheeler’s worst was already behind him. It was not a great game by any stretch of the imagination, yet Wheeler battled and turned in another fine performance if judged only by the final results. Wheeler and Jacob deGrom have given the Mets two pitchers who consistently give the Mets a chance to win.
We all want Matt Harvey to return next year and make that three pitchers in the rotation. Then we dream and add Noah Syndergaard to the list. It’s fun and doesn’t seem like it’s too far-fetched, either. Still, are we selling ourselves and our dreams short by not including Rafael Montero in this scenario? What does Montero have to do to be taken seriously?
Montero got a tryout earlier this season. He was tremendous in one outing (6 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 10 Ks) but overall he was unimpressive. The main culprit was uncharacteristically poor control. Montero allowed 11 BB in 20 IP, which shocked just about everyone. He was returned to the minors after four starts and shortly afterwards wound up on the DL with a strained left oblique.
Was he pitching injured while in Queens? Was he intimidated by being in the majors? Was it just a normal bump in the development process? We can only guess. Regardless of the reason for his poor performance in his initial exposure to MLB hitters, it would be a mistake to make any definitive judgments based on 20 innings.
Montero pitched eight shutout innings Tuesday night for Las Vegas. Since returning from the oblique injury, Montero has made four starts in Triple-A and has a 2.28 ERA with 8 BB and 26 Ks in 23.1 IP. But if we can’t get too down on 20 innings in the majors, we can’t get too excited about 23 in the minors.
So, let’s look at Montero’s history in Las Vegas. In 31 starts over two seasons with the 51s, Montero has a 3.15 ERA with an 8.5 K/9 and a 2.68 K/BB ratio in 162.2 IP. That seems like something over which we can be excited.
Pitching in the friendlier environment of Buffalo, Harvey had a 3.68 ERA in Triple-A, with a 9.2 K/9 and a 2.33 K/B ratio. Pitching in Las Vegas, Wheeler had a 3.93 ERA with a 9.6 K/9 and a 2.70 K/BB ratio. Keep in mind that Syndergaard has a 4.85 ERA in Las Vegas this year, along with a 9.4 K/9 and a 3.45 K/BB ratio
If his minor league stats stand toe-to-toe with Harvey and Wheeler – why shouldn’t we be excited about Montero? If his ERA and WHIP (1.216 vs. 1.510) are superior to Syndergaard’s – why can’t he be in the dream, too?
Too often, Montero gets pushed aside and, much like Terry Collins’ deployment of Josh Edgin, it just doesn’t make sense. If people don’t hold Syndergaard’s 4.85 ERA in Las Vegas against him, why should they hold Montero’s ugly 20 innings in the majors against him, especially given what he’s done since?
The best thing for the Mets would be for the team to be in the hunt for a playoff spot next month and then make the decision to allow deGrom to exceed 180 innings pitched. But if they’re not a factor when September rolls around, here’s hoping that Montero gets another shot in the rotation and gets to make another four starts or so for the Mets.
It was a self-fulfilling prophecy that resulted in Jenrry Mejia moving to the bullpen. We don’t need to witness déjà vu all over again by unnecessarily moving Montero to a relief role.