TAMPA — Jordan Montgomery came into camp knowing he’d have a spot in the rotation and that’s allowed him to focus on other aspects of his repertoire this spring.
So when he allowed a pair of soft hits to start the third, the left-hander got to use his slide-step, work on holding runners on and “just feel the pressure of having guys on base.”
Then he got three straight ground balls to prevent any runs from scoring in the inning.
In all, Montgomery tossed three shutout innings, throwing 42 pitches, as he prepares for what the Yankees expect to be a solid season from the 28-year-old.
“I feel good about the way I’m moving on the mound [and] recreating my mechanics pitch after pitch,’’ said Montgomery, who dropped some weight in the offseason. “I’m pretty happy with where I am.”
So are the Yankees.
Aaron Judge said he’s been impressed by how Montgomery has been attacking hitters this spring.
“That’s a big thing with Montgomery,’’ the right fielder said. “When he can attack hitters and have them expand the zone, he’s deadly.”
Judge pointed to Montgomery’s curveball and changeup to go along with his fastball.
“I’m looking forward to what he’s gonna do this year,’’ Judge said. “He’s a big piece of our rotation. I’m excited to have him healthy.”
DJ LeMahieu has never gone up against Montgomery in a game, but suspects he’s taken about a dozen at-bats versus the lefty in live batting practice sessions, saying, “he’s not an easy guy to face.”
LeMahieu added Montgomery’s ability to get his fastball up around 94-95 mph has made him tougher to hit.
“You don’t expect [that velocity],’’ LeMahieu said of Montgomery, who hit 94 Sunday. “He looked really good. He’s been sharp so far.”
That was especially true in the top of the first, when Montgomery whiffed ex-Yankee Didi Gregorius with an excellent 0-2 curveball.
The outing was another example of why the Yankees are confident Montgomery is ready to be a significant contributor to the rotation behind Gerrit Cole.
“It was another good step forward in his progression,’’ Boone said. “He was really attacking the strike zone against a good Philly lineup.”
To Boone’s point, in addition to Gregorius, Philadelphia manager Joe Girardi brought Bryce Harper, Jean Segura and Andrew McCutchen, among others, on the trip from Clearwater.
Montgomery needed just 10 pitches to get through the first and 11 more in the second before Matt Joyce and Roman Quinn reached to open the third. And Montgomery was able to get out of it.
“For early March, he was fairly sharp,’’ Boone said. “I thought his stuff was solid.”