2 Guys Talking: Rafael Montero Makes His Debut



With the Yankees at Citi Field tonight the game was guaranteed to have a little more juice than the usual mid-May, mid-week game. But now the game has taken on  more importance, as one of the team’s touted pitching prospects, Rafael Montero, gets his first Mets start.


Rolling-dice-006I am happy and excited.

How could I not be? This is just one of a series of moves I had wanted the Mets to make, many of them right out of spring training. For Rafael Montero, it’s time.

Now, yes, there are quibbles and questions. Why wasn’t deGrom prepared for a role that looked inevitable? Why was Montero’s debut slated for a sold-out home game against the Yankees, especially in light of the handling of similar (and highly successful) ML debuts by Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler away from the media demands of NY? I can understand where fans of Jenrry Mejia might feel that he’s been treated unfairly, set up to fail. It’s right for him to feel disappointed, maybe even a little betrayed. However, to me, Mejia does look and act like my idea of a reliever. Overall, big picture, this has been a very positive orchestration of events by Mets management. Dare I say it? I’m hopeful. Even if the Mets fall short this season, this would be how I want to do it. Let youth be served.


I understand your concern and the timing seems like an obvious marketing ploy. But I’m not sweating that part of it. I’m happy to see the front office putting some gas on the pedal. It’s time to see what Rafael Montero can do.


Montero has earned this shot. This is not a frightened Julio Valera taking Ron Darling’s spot in a big series in Pittsburgh (Valera got shelled for 8 hits in 2 IP, and the panic move invited doom for Frank Cashen and Buddy Harrelson, signaling the end of an era).

Now it is time to see what the Mets have got. There are concerns, of course. Is his ball too straight? Does he have the secondary pitches? And so on. But none of those questions can be answered in Las Vegas. We know he can dominate in the minor leagues. If it turns out that Montero’s only a reliever, that’s not like flunking second grade. A solid bullpen is critical to any team’s success — and building from within appears to be the surest, most cost-effective way to go. We need quality pitchers back there, too.

In sum: The smooth right-hander from the Dominican Republic, arguably the last impact player identified and scouted during the Minaya regime, needs to pitch in New York for the Mets —  and finally that day has arrived. At a certain point, how it all came down is beside the point. I can hardly complain now. By waiting until May 14th, Alderson retained Montero’s rights for an extra season. But by not waiting another 5-6 weeks, the Mets GM willingly forfeited “Super 2″ status, which effects arbitration eligibility. Good, solid thinking from Mets management.


yKEPNER-master675The corresponding move is that Mejia goes to the bullpen. He has been fairly vocal he doesn’t want to go there, but somebody had to go somewhere. I sure don’t want to see a six-man rotation. How Jenrry performs in his new role could be the actual key to whether Montero’s call up improves the team. I’m not expecting Montero to show up and be any better than Mejia was in the rotation, but there is a lot of room for improvement in that Mets bullpen.


There’s a lot of second-hand, third-hand speculation about Jenrry’s druthers. Who really knows? I find it impossible to measure the strength of his convictions. I’d guess that 100% of young starting pitchers would prefer, all things being equal, to remain in starting roles. He needs to be handled correctly, supported, told the right things, and praised for performing this extremely valuable role. There’s no choice — I’m not saying to baby him — but the team can help itself by helping him embrace the situation.


The first night went great. Mejia pitched well, and was pumped. Mejia has always come across as a high-energy guy. That plays well in the bullpen. The fact is that the pen is the real area of need. And realistically, no one else from the rotation could be shifted. It was either Montero or Mejia. I’m comfortable with this initial choice.


Eric Campbell has already given the Mets a breath of fresh air. On Monday night, he twice used speed on the base paths, stretching a single to reach safely at second and, later, scoring on a beautiful slide into the plate (thank you, new anti-collision rules). That was a skill Josh Satin lacked. So here again we can quibble about timing, but the pieces are in fact falling into place. We might wish for better pieces, but at least now — finally — the Mets are marshaling their forces correctly. I believe that Josh Satin earned his job this spring based on last season’s solid performance. Then he lost it. But rather than fiddle and dither around, Sandy uncharacteristically made an early decision.


That’s the new element here. We were so frustrated by the lengthy evaluation process with Ike Davis and Lucas Duda — years of indecisiveness — that when they moved quickly on Mejia, it felt rushed and too sudden. But stepping back to look at it, I can’t complain about them being too slow and too fast. I am glad to see new urgency. No complaints from me (today!). In retrospect, I see that they got caught into a Samuel Beckett-like snare of “Waiting for Ike,” the player who never arrived. At least they aren’t waiting for Josh.

Do you think they were feeling the heat?


Punting another season doesn’t make sense. With this horrible bullpen, the team is still right at .500. With the additional Wild Card if you can go a few games over, you are in the race. Familia has shown signs in the last two weeks of what he can provide. If Mejia and deGrom pitch well, this team gets very interesting. The starting pitching has been there all along.

cutcaster-photo-100423658-New-York-Flight-TicketThis is why the bullpen situation has been so frustrating to me. It’s not like shortstop, where the entire system is barren, there are arms in this organization. I wrote a post early in the season, Losing is One Thing, Not Trying is Another. It’s way too early in the season to pack it in. These moves are a breath of fresh air, whatever the motivation.

And what is the downside? The pitchers being replaced are shot cases, no loss there. If the rookies do not produce, the team might learn valuable information about them. And if they succeed, hey, you never know.

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  1. Such a fascinating matchup tonight, in terms of pure storyline. Tanaka, the high-paid free agent vs. Montero, the draft pick who slowly worked his way through the system, earning league minimum. And the bigger picture, too. Two teams traveling different paths, seemingly headed in different directions, intersecting for one night in NY with identical 19-19 records.

    I think it has been IB here, in our comments section, who has mentioned his sense that the fans of NY have grown tired of the Yankees. That it’s gone stale. That people are ready to embrace something new. And I find that insightful and accurate — for the moment, at least. This Yankee club is old and dull, nearly everyone’s best days are in the rearview. True, the Mets have caught them at the perfect time, when they are in total disarray. It’s hard to believe who they are sending out there with the budget they’ve got. Oh well, life’s a bitch.

    The Mets organization has an opportunity. The window has been opened, the door is ajar. They can capture some hearts and minds this year, and next year, if things break the right way and if — oh yes, if — management acts boldly and decisively to address team needs. There’s room for a trade or two at the deadline.

    Let’s go Mets!

  2. Eric says:

    There is a real sense of optimism surrounding these moves. I don’t like when FO’s feel the need to appease the masses on talk radio, but moves like these have been well thought out, and rationally articulated on this blog and others. It’s about time.

    I’ve received a number of emails and texts from slumbering Mets fans, saying how pumped up they are for Montero. Making a big splash via free agency or trades is great, but just showing a commitment to win at the NY level is refreshing, and to me and apparently many other fans, it is enough to light a small fire.

    I hope it continues to burn.


    • Michael Geus says:

      Well said. These players were far from rushed, by any standards. It’s great to finally see what they can do.

      Again, yes, it’s only mid-May, but things in the National League look wide open. All that was “squandered,” if you want to call it that, is a year of arbitration down the road. Maybe, depending on health effectiveness, etc. It’s not like we just traded these players for a pending free agent.

  3. IB says:

    Re. a creeping Yankee fan malaise, I have only this to say, and I quote Ralph Cramden: “Be kind to the people you meet on the way up, because you’re going to meet the same people on the way down”. 2 decades of extreme arrogance has hardened my heart. Sorry Mickey, Tom Tresh, wherever you are!

    • Seeing the giddy Mets fans in the stands at Yankee Stadium the past two nights, I keep thinking: “That’s right, it’s our turn to be the assholes now!”

      • Eric says:

        So true. I had such a feeling of pride seeing The 7 Line Army out there in the left field stands. Almost like seeing the Colonists standing up against the British. And we all know how that turned out….

  4. Eraff says:

    Montero did very well versus a deep, veteran, quality LH lineup.

    Impressive….easy 93-95. Really dynamic down in the zone.

    • Last night I made a similar observation about the quality lineup (should be posted soon). This may not be the strongest Yankee lineup in the baseball history, but there’s a lot of experience at the plate. Montero had to work for every out.

  5. Mack Ade says:

    Michael –

    How was the shortbread?

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