March 5, 2018
By Brad Muller | More Features
He may no longer be called “Gumby” in the dugout, but former South Carolina pitcher Jordan Montgomery is making a name for himself in Major League Baseball as he prepares for his second season with the New York Yankees.
“They just call me ‘Monty,’” Montgomery deadpanned.
In 29 games last year with the Yankees, Montgomery posted a 9-7 record with a 3.88 ERA. He started last season in Triple A, but was called up to the big club a short time later, making his major league debut on April 12 against Tampa. Following a no-decision in that contest, he earned his first major league win against the Chicago White Sox in his second start.
“I called my mom, first of all,” Montgomery said when he was called up to the Yankees. “I trickled down and called the rest of the family and gave them a few days notice to come to New York.
“There were a lot more butterflies for that first start. I got there and just tried to soak it in before the stadium got really crowded. I was expecting to be a little more star-struck and looking at all the people, but it sort of just fades away. It’s like For the Love of the Game, you just ‘clear the mechanism.’”
It’s not a surprise to Gamecock fans that Montgomery has been able to work his way up through the minor leagues to compete at the highest level. He earned freshman All-America honors with the Gamecocks in 2012 and continued that success in 2013 and 2014. He went 20-7 in 3 years at South Carolina before being selected by the Yankees in the fourth round of the 2014 MLB Draft. Montgomery noted that playing at South Carolina helped prepare him for professional baseball.
“Playing in front of all those fans (at South Carolina) helped me,” Montgomery said. “The coaching staff with Coach (Ray) Tanner, Coach (Chad) Holbrook, and Coach (Jerry) Meyers; that whole crew molded me to be professional and how to handle my business.”
If you’re putting up numbers and getting guys out, it shows you’re supposed to be there.
Montgomery started his pro career in the Gulf Coast League in 2014, and the following season began the year in low Class A before being promoted to high Class A later in the season. In 2016, he started in Double A and was later promoted to Triple A in August.
“I made a big jump in my mechanics from college to the pros,” Montgomery said. “I made adjustments and started to use my legs a little more. That made everything a little sharper. The minor leagues weren’t horrible at all. You’re playing with all of these guys who are going after the same dream. I had a goal of trying to be somewhere different every year in the minors, and fortunately for me, it came to be that way.”
That’s not to say he doesn’t enjoy the many perks of being on a major league roster.
“I’d say the food on the plane is one of the biggest differences (from the minors),” Montgomery said. “You’ve got unlimited candy, so I have to be careful.”
Montgomery noted that now that he is no longer a rookie, he wants to be more aggressive.
“I just have to try to be around the zone a lot more,” Montgomery said. “With a year under my belt, I think I’ll be a little more comfortable in trying to pitch to contact instead of trying to miss bats the whole game. It’s a lot easier to throw a fastball in there that way.”
Whether it’s meeting some of the current greats in the game on his own team or facing them as opposing hitters, Montgomery was able to keep his cool demeanor last year and never felt “star-struck.”
“I had been around a lot of those guys in spring training, and the locker room and club house is pretty comfortable for me,” Montgomery said. “Evan Longoria (currently with San Francisco Giants) was probably one of the toughest batters I faced. He was always a tough out. He would foul off so many pitches that, even if you put him away, it’s almost like he still won.”
Having been a part of a great rivalry with Clemson during his days with the Gamecocks, Montgomery understands the importance of the adversarial relationship between the Yankees and Boston Red Sox.
“I’m a part of it now, so of course I want to win whenever we can,” Montgomery said. “You try to win those games and give a little extra for the fans.”
Montgomery will do his best in spring training to secure a spot in the Yankees starting rotation once again. He is confident that he belongs, but he is still humble about any kind of celebrity status.
“I don’t really do much in the city.” Montgomery said. “The last couple of subway trips I took, I would get noticed, but it really wasn’t a problem at all. If you’re putting up numbers and getting guys out, it shows you’re supposed to be there.”
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