The Fall of Rafael Montero
Over the course of a full 162 schedule, it is extremely rare that a team is able to get through a season with just five starting pitchers. With that in mind, a team will need more than just five major league caliber starting pitchers in order to get through the season. We were all reminded of that again with the news that Steven Matz and Noah Syndergaard are both dealing with bone spurs in their pitching elbows. Apparently, the situation is worse for Matz who is debating if he should have surgery.
If Matz, Syndergaard, or really any Mets pitcher cannot make a start, the Mets have options. There is Logan Verrett who has already made four spot starts this season and will start in place of Matz today. There is Sean Gilmartin who began the year in Las Vegas, in part, so the Mets could allow him to further develop as a starting pitcher. The Mets also have well regarded prospect Gabriel Ynoa who becomes more and more major league ready with each and every start. Whenever the Mets need an arm, these are the three names that are usually in the discussion for a start. You know who’s name doesn’t get brought up anymore? Rafael Montero.
This is a precipitous fall from grace for Montero. As soon as 2014, the Mets had considered Montero a major league caliber starting pitcher. He ranked ahead of Jacob deGrom on the organizational depth chart. The Mets were proven wrong when deGrom got a chance to go out there and perform while Montero was injured. As a result, when the 2015 season began, the Mets had deGrom in the rotation and Montero in the bullpen. Still, Montero would get his shot to start as the Mets wanted to implement a six man rotation to limit the innings for deGrom and Matt Harvey. Montero would make one start, and he would be sent down to AAA. However, that demotion would be rescinded as Montero was found to have rotator cuff inflammation.
Eventually, the Mets would question his willingness to pitch. Subsequent tests would show there was no significant injuries. The team would suggest that while there was inflammation, Montero should’ve been able to pitch through it. During a late season road trip to Florida, Terry Collins traveled to Port St. Lucie to meet with Montero to try to get him going. Eventually, Montero would pitch in a few minor league games at the end of the year, but it was too little too late in terms of making the postseason roster.
As the team reported to Spring Training this season, Collins pulled him aside and tried to motivate him. He told Montero the Mets had to re-sign Bartolo Colon because Montero hasn’t fulfilled his promise. If he had, he would have been slated at the Mets’ fifth starter. Montero responded to the pep talk by getting shellacked by the Nationals. When the Mets had to trim down their roster, Montero was one of the first people selected to go to Minor League Spring Training. It seemed like it was his last chance. He would get one more.
After Matz’s first start of the season exhausted the Mets bullpen and Jacob deGrom’s baby being sick, the Mets needed an extra arm. The team would call-up Montero. Collins seemingly went out of his way to not use him going so far as to pitch Jim Henderson in a game he had no business pitching. When Montero finally got into a game, he didn’t perform. In his two appearances, Montero had an 11.57 ERA and a 2.571 WHIP. The Mets had no problem sending him down.
In the minors, Montero has continued to be underwhelming. In 14 starts this year, he is 4-4 with a 6.62 ERA and a 1.736 WHIP. To be blunt, Montero is doing nothing more right now than occupying a spot on the 40 man roster. We saw the effect of that when the Mets had subjected and lost Dario Alvarez on waivers when the Mets needed to make room for Ty Kelly on the 40 man roster. With the Braves, Alvarez has gone 1-1 with a 2.08 ERA and a 0.923 WHIP. So far, Alvarez has accomplished more than Montero has and perhaps ever will.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way for Montero. He was supposed to be the guy in the top half of the rotation. It hasn’t panned out that way. He’s not even a consideration anymore for when the Mets need a pitcher. Now, he’s a player taking up a spot on the 40 man roster that could be going to players with more promise. This has been a sad fall from grace for Rafael Montero.
Editor’s Note: this was also published on metsmerizedonline.com