Filling in for the injured Yu Darvish, Chicago Cubs left-hander Mike Montgomery has turned in three straight solid starts in a bid to stay in the rotation.
Remember this spring when Mike Montgomery made it pretty clear he wanted to start instead of come out of the pen? And how, despite his wishes, the Chicago Cubs kept him in his swing man role?
He might have been onto something. In his three outings as a starter, the left-hander allowed a grand total of two runs. He came within one out in his first start of notching a quality start – and followed that outing with back-to-back quality starts.
On Friday afternoon, Montgomery silenced a Pirates offense for the second time in two weeks, turning in six innings of one-run ball. He got plenty of defensive help (namely from Ian Happ), but he always came up with the big pitch when he needed it. Chicago, meanwhile, held on for a 2-1 win – their third consecutive victory and 10th in their last 12 games.
"“I’m definitely ready for the challenge, whatever the role is,” Montgomery said after the game. “It’s something I prepared in my mind, always, to be a starter. It’s fun going out there and getting a chance to start.”"
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With Tyler Chatwood giving out free passes like its going out of style and Darvish still on the disabled list, there’s clearly a long-term need here. Even if Jim Hickey can get the former’s mechanical flaws ironed out and Darvish returns and dominates, how do you tell Montgomery to go back to the pen after this kind of showing?
In short, I’m not sure if you can.
Seizing the opportunity
He’s longed for this opportunity. Now, he’s capitalizing on it. Montgomery has done everything in his power to stay in the starting rotation for the foreseeable future. We looked at the possibility of the Cubs employing a six-man staff moving forward earlier this week – an idea that’s hardly new.
As a starter this season, Montgomery carries a sterling 1.02 ERA in his three outings. How? A 10-to-2 strikeout to walk ratio and allowing just one homer in those three outings. Out of the pen, he’s hardly been the guy we’ve come to expect. In 18 outings as a reliever, his WHIP nearly doubles – all the way to 1.461 and his earned run average spikes to 5.33.
As numbers-driven as the Chicago Cubs are, it’s hard to see the front office turning a blind eye. With Darvish sidelined for at least a couple more weeks, they have time to figure it out. But if Montgomery keeps pitching like he has, he might just make the decision for them.