Mike Montgomery went from one of the top prospects in all of baseball in the Royals organization to a throw-in as part of the James Shields-Wil Myers trade after managing just a 5.69 ERA between 2011 and 2012. With that in mind, the Rays have just been hoping for babysteps from their talented but enigmatic lefty. Montgomery has only made six starts, but it’s seems like each start is only getting better and dominance may be ahead.
Triple-A International League: Durham Bulls 7, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders (NYY) 4
The star and the so-called lottery ticket in the James Shields trade had huge days as the Bulls pulled away early in their 7-4 win. Mike Montgomery delivered his first quality start at Triple-A since last June 23rd, going 6 innings allowing 3 runs on 6 hits, striking out 4 while walking 1 and posting a 7-3 groundout to flyout ratio. He allowed 2 runs in a tough 5th but showed nice resiliency to escape that inning and toss the 6th. Montgomery’s ERA is just 5.03 in four Triple-A starts, but his peripherals have been encouraging as he has managed a 7.3 K/9, a 3.2 BB/9, and a 0.9 HR/9, including a 10-2 strikeout to walk ratio with only 1 home run allowed in his last two starts. He still has a long way to go, but Montgomery has pitched about as well as the Rays possibly could have hoped and could realistically end up in the major leagues by the end of the year if he just keeps making strides. In terms of Montgomery’s run support, Wil Myers had yet another huge game, going 3 for 4 with a homer, a triple, and 3 RBI (yes, he was a double short of the cycle). Myers extended his hitting streak to 10 games, and he’s hitting .409 with 6 home runs over the streak to raise his average to .280 on the season. Shelley Duncan, Cole Figueroa, and Juan Apodaca also went deep for the Bulls, with Figueroa and Apodaca both hitting their first home runs of the season. Great to see Myers surging and Montgomery progressing, and so far, so good for the returns on this James Shields trade.
Double-A Southern League: Pensacola Blue Wahoos (CIN) 11, Montgomery Biscuits 4
Keith Castillo continues hitting out of his mind, but the rest of the Biscuits were extremely lackluster as Montgomery fell 11-4 to Pensacola. Jake Floethe allowed 5 runs in 4 innings, but it was Marquis Fleming who really imploded, allowing 6 runs in the 7th that if avoided could have made this a much more interesting game. Things got bad enough that Steven Tinoco, an outfielder/first baseman, had to make his third relief appearance of the season, tossing a shutout 9th. On the offensive side, Kevin Kiermaier did go 2 for 5 with a double, but beyond him it was basically only Keith Castillo, who went 4 for 5 with a homer and a double. After demoted from High-A to Low-A in June of last year, somehow Castillo has been an impossible out of late at Double-A, hitting 11 for 25 (.440) in 7 games. This won’t keep up, but pretty amazing how well Castillo is hitting.
High-A Florida State League Game 1: Charlotte Stone Crabs 7, St. Lucie Mets 4 (7 innings)
Five runs in the final three innings made all the difference as the Stone Crabs came back to beat St. Lucie. Felipe Rivero struggled, allowing 3 runs on 5 hits in 3.1 innings, but Chris Kirsch and Lenny Linsky held the Mets to 1 run in the final 3.2 IP, working around 5 hits and 3 walks to do so. It was the offense who really shined, with every member of the lineup collecting a hit and just 3 runners left on base. Jeff Malm had a 2-run homer, Drew Vettleson had a 2-run double, and Ryan Brett went 2 for 4 with 3 triples, an RBI, and a run scored. Brett has been playing extremely well since returning from his suspension, managing a .277/.333/.489 line with 13 games. In sharp contrast to Josh Sale, he hasn’t really missed a beat.
Game 2: St. Lucie 5, Charlotte 3
Another tough game for the Charlotte pitching staff marred this one as the offense wasn’t nearly the same. Jacob Partridge and Eliazer Suero combined to allow 5 runs on 9 hits in the 7 innings, striking out 4 and walking 4 as well. The Stone Crabs’ entire offense was homers by Hector Guevara and Willie Argo, with Argo’s being a 2-run shot. Argo’s been playing great, managing a .357/.478/.554 line with 11 stolen bases in 20 games, but more interesting has to be Guevara. He’s hitting just .236 with a horrific .274 OBP yet has slammed 6 home runs in 177 plate appearances, as many as he hit in 657 plate appearances between 2011 and 2012. Guevara is going to have to do a better job getting on base, but it appears that he’s finally starting to tap into the raw power the Rays have always known he had and if keeps this up, good things should be ahead.
Low-A Midwest League: South Bend Silver Hawks (ARI) 8, Bowling Green Hot Rods 6
We knew it would happen eventually–Taylor Guerrieri would have a terrible start. Guerrieri went just 4 innings allowing 6 runs on 11 hits after never allowing more than 3 earned runs in any of his first 21 professional starts. He raised his ERA to (gasp) 3.14. Yes, that’s how great Guerrieri has been. Rough day for Guerrieri, but hopefully he can just get by this game without a hitch. Marcus Jensen struck out 3 while walking none as he allowed only an unearned run in 3 innings of relief for Bowling Green to keep the game close. In terms of the offense, Marty Gantt slammed a 3-run homer, Tyler Goeddel had a 2-run shot, and Patrick Leonard had an encouraging game, going 2 for 3 with a double, and walk, and a run scored. At the end of the day, this game was lost almost entirely because of Taylor Guerrieri’s struggles. Don’t think we’ll be saying that again for a long time.