Rays Winter Ball Recap: Something Clicks for Mike Montgomery


In the major leagues, we understand that at the end of the day, winning is everything. We have our favorite players, but the ones that last are the ones who continue to perform. In the minor leagues, though, wins and losses can be blinding. If we see a winning team, often we take them as being better than they are, and when they lose, something we catch ourselves placing the blame on the team’s supposed top prospects. In the Arizona Fall League and the Winter Leagues, though, that bias disappears as Rays players become either just a part of a team (in the AFL) or distributed around the league (everywhere else). The Salt River Rafters had an awful game on Thursday. But Mike Montgomery was dominant, and that’s all Rays fans need to know.

Arizona Fall League: Glendale Desert Dogs 6, Salt River Rafters 0

In his last appearance on Monday, Mike Montgomery was able to put something together, showing flashes of a plus breaking ball as he tossed a perfect inning. As it turned out, it was only the beginning. After the three pitchers ahead of him had combined to allow 5 runs in 6 innings of work, Montgomery came in and rolled, tossing 2 perfect innings, striking out 4. He threw 33 pitches, 24 strikes. One inning can be fluky–three can be as well, but it’s still something more. Montgomery is throwing the ball well–is there where his comeback starts? Among the other Rays in the game, Matt Ramsey tossed a perfect inning behind Montgomery, meaning that Rays pitchers tossed 3 spotless innings while every other Rafters pitcher combined for 5 runs on 9 hits and 4 walks in 6 innings of work. The Rafters offense, meanwhile, had just 4 hits, but one of them was from Todd Glaesmann, who went 1 for 3 and also had an outfield assist. Ryan Brett, though, saw his terrible luck continue as he went 1 for 4 with two groundouts, a flyout, and a lineout to end the game. He is making contact, striking out just twice in 20 plate appearances while 4 times, and he has hit the ball hard, but he just can’t find some grass. Brett just has to stay calm knowing that he’s doing everything right and his misfortune will subside. Tough for Brett, but at least three of four Rays had tremendous games with Montgomery especially shining.

Mexican Pacific League Game 1: Mayos de Navojoa 3, Tomateros de Culiácan 2 (7 innings)

Game 2: Tomateros 4, Mayos 3 (7 innings)

Year after year, Wes Bankston returns to the Mexican Pacific League. And year after year, he has played well. Bankston went 1 for 3 with an RBI in the opener before going 1 for 3 with a walk in the nightcap. How many years of great performances will it take for Bankston to get another shot with a big league organization? Cecilio Garibaldi, who was a Devil Rays prospect from 1998 to 2001, struck out the only batter he faced for Navojoa in the second game.

Algodoneros de Guasave 7, Venados de Mazatlán 1

Henry Mateo had the only run scored for Mazatlan, but the story in this game was a former Rays draft pick we have not yet discussed, right-hander Josh Geer. Geer, a college teammate of Jeff Niemann and fellow Rays top 10 pick Wade Townshend at Rice, has stayed in the Padres organization 10 years now, experiencing everything from brief big league success in 2008 to a Triple-A collapse in 2012 that led to a demotion down to Double-A. Geer has thrwon in the high-80’s for years, but what has always given him an advantage is the Rays organization’s specialty, a plus changeup. In any event, Geer had a great start in this contest, 6.1 innings allowing just 5 hits, striking out none while walking 2 but forcing an 11-4 groundout to flyout ratio. He’s 30 years old now and is overdue for a change of pace. It’s unlikely that he’s an impact guy, but as a player they were once interested in, there’s a chance the Rays could sign him as Triple-A depth.

Venezuelan Winter League: Leones del Caracas 5, Tiburones de La Guaira 4

What a turnaround for Daniel Mayora! The 28 year old natural second baseman has gone from the Leones’ bench to their second hole hitter and he just keeps mashing, going 2 for 4 with a walk, a double, and an RBI in this game. He’s now 9 for 18, with 6 of the 9 going for extra bases. Not too shabby. But can it last in any way at all? Cesar Suarez went 1 for 4 in the loss for La Guaira while Danny Dorn went 0 for 3 with a walk for Caracas.

Caribes de Anzoátegui 7, Cardenales de Lara 5

Leslie Anderson‘s Rays tenure was a disappointment. He began play in the Venezuelan Winter League on Thursday hoping to change his fate. Anderson got off to a nice start, going 1 for 3 with a pair of walks and a run scored. He slumped badly to end the seaosn for the Durham Bulls, but he seems to have improved his plate discipline significantly overall. It will be interesting how many teams will desire his services this offseason. Romulo Sanchez worked around a walk to toss a scoreless third of an inning for Lara in the loss.