While it may hurt, the Jordan Montgomery demotion makes sense
The Yankees put themselves in an interesting predicament, when they acquired two starting pitchers for essentially one spot before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. The first move was to acquire LHP Jaimie Garcia from the Twins, who is a major upgrade over the fifth starters the Yankees have had to trot out, since it was discovered that Michael Pineda needed Tommy John Surgery. The second acquisition of RHP Sonny Gray successfully gave the Yankees another option at the front-end of the rotation and further improves a starting rotation that has great potential. However, the team now had six capable Major League starting pitchers for only five slots in the rotation. The Yankees decided to trot out a six-man rotation for one turn and then officially announced on Sunday night that rookie Jordan Montgomery would need to pack his bags and head to the Yankees Triple-A affiliate in Scranton.
When I received the notification on Sunday evening about Montgomery’s demotion I was shocked and in disbelief. While I was aware of the crowded rotation, I thought there was a miniscule chance that Montgomery would be making his next appearance in a RailRider uniform. This doubt was reinforced with Montgomery’s dominant outing in Cleveland on Saturday. After the team dropped two games to Cleveland and the offense seemed to had seemed to gone silent, Montgomery gave his team a huge start as he stifled Indian hitters through five innings, struck out seven, scattered three hits, and only needed 65 pitches to complete his performance. While there was controversy that he was pulled too early, the Yankees’ strong bullpen made Girardi’s decision seem genius as the Yankees won the game by a score of 2-1.
After Sonny Gray was let down in his debut and Jaimie Garcia was less than solid in his, Montgomery came in clutch with his solid outing against one of the American League’s most potent offenses. This outing came after he was rumored to be the odd man out regardless of his next start’s performance. Along with his solid performance on Saturday, Montgomery has been a staple in the Yankees’ rotation ever since he initially won the spot in Spring Training. His stats as of his last start consisted of a 7-6 record with a 4.05 ERA and 111 strikeouts in 115.2 innings, which are solid for a team’s fourth starter in his first year at the Major League level. If it wasn’t for Aaron Judge’s breakout season he could very well have been a frontrunner for AL Rookie of the Year. So, why was he demoted? The answer is the 21st century “arm savior” aka an innings limit.
While I do believe an innings limit is overrated due to the ambiguity in the stress on a pitcher’s arm a specific amount of innings result in, it has been scientifically proven that building up a pitcher’s durability throughout his young career will result in the best possible outcome in terms of injury prevention. Montgomery’s career high in innings pitched, before 2017, was 139.1 between AA and AAA in 2016. He currently sits at 120.2 innings in 2017 (he pitched five innings in Tampa to begin the season) and would have finished at approximately 170 innings, if he kept up his pace. If you ask Jordan Montgomery, he would 100% say he feels great and wants to help this team in the pennant race and if you ask Yankee fans, most of them would say they want to see the rookie southpaw pitch in pinstripes and not in Triple-A. However, the Yankees made a decision to protect their young pitcher for the long haul, and it makes sense.
According to MLB Network’s Jon Morosi, the Yankees plan is to keep Montgomery starting in Triple-A, but only every seventh day and with reduced innings. Could the Yankees have left Montgomery on the MLB roster as a long-man to reduce his innings? Yes, that would have made sense as another long-man was called up to replace him in Bryan Mitchell. However, the Yankees want to keep Montgomery stretched out as there would be no internal option better than him if another starting pitcher fell victim to an injury.
A six-man rotation with an innings restriction on Montgomery could have also worked. Luis Severino could have received some extra rest down the stretch and Masahiro Tanaka could have been given extra rest to enhance his pitching, but the plan the Yankees have come up is what is seen as the best-case scenario for both the team and Montgomery.
Montgomery has arguably been the Yankees’ most reliable starter outside of Severino in 2017, and it does sting to see him have to leave his team, after a solid run this season. However, the Yankees won’t be running an incompetent starter out every fifth day during his absence, and I would argue that Yankee fans have definitely not seen the last of Jordan Montgomery in 2017. The Yankees are not pulling a "Joba Rules" fiasco with Montgomery and are only doing what they feel is best for his career and for the current team.
Article by: Ryan Thoms