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Mets' Montero spins 14-karat gem
St. Lucie right-hander allows two runs, five hits in six innings
08/01/2012 12:15 AM ET
Rafael Montero has allowed three runs or fewer in all seven starts for St. Lucie.
Rafael Montero has allowed three runs or fewer in all seven starts for St. Lucie. (Mark LoMoglio/MiLB.com)
Rafael Montero is starting to make some noise in the lower rungs of the Mets organization.

With excellent makeup, good command and three pitches that have the chance to be above-average offerings, St. Lucie manager Ryan Ellis says the 21-year-old right-hander could be the complete package.

Montero recorded a career-high 14 strikeouts over six innings Tuesday night as the Class A Advanced Mets held on for a 3-2 victory over the Clearwater Threshers.

"He has a good work ethic. If he continues to stay humble and goes about his business in the same way, he has a bright future ahead of him," Ellis said. "He has the stuff to be a very good pitcher as the years progress, but it's up to him and how much work he wants to put in."

Montero's previous best was 10 strikeouts, set in a 1-0 loss to Brevard County on July 17. The 14 punchouts also were a Florida State League season high.

Signed by the Mets as a non-drafted free agent last January, Montero fanned at least two batters in every inning. He struck out the side in the fourth and replicated the feat around a double in the sixth.

"He was very good tonight," Ellis said. "He worked the fastball in and out and he mixed in the breaking pitches. He was able to keep them off-balance and he finished off hitters.

"His fastball is No. 1. Then his slider is his No. 2 and his changeup third. But he didn't throw all fastballs. Whenever he fell behind, he was able to throw his slider for strikes. He didn't give up on his changeup, and that's good for his development."

Montero's night got off to an inauspicious start when Peter Lavin opened the game with his fifth homer of the season. Lavin singled leading off the sixth and scored the Threshers' other run on a double by Jim Murphy.

"We threw [Lavin] five fastballs in that first at-bat," Ellis said. "We tried to come inside. It was a good piece of hitting but also a bit of a mistake.

"[In the sixth], there was a runner on second base. We threw Murphy a 3-2 fastball outside and he went with it and hit it in the gap. If you make a mistake against these good Clearwater hitters, they'll hit it."

Montero possesses a fastball that sits in the low 90s, a mid-80s changeup and a slider that tops out at 86. He left after throwing 101 pitches, right around the limit the team has imposed.

A native of the Dominican Republic, Montero was 6-3 with a 2.52 ERA in 12 starts with Class A Savannah before a mid-June promotion to the Florida State League. In seven games with St. Lucie, he's 4-2 with a 2.51 ERA. Across the two levels, he has 105 strikeouts against 16 walks.

"It's pretty exciting to see this young kid throw the ball," St. Lucie pitching coach Phil Regan said of Montero, who retired 11 batters in a row. "He's just a year or two out of the Gulf Coast League, but he's been a very good pitcher for us.

"He has good mechanics and he has everything you look for in a young player. He's very composed on the mound and he doesn't get too excited."

Kyle Allen followed Montero to the mound and fanned two over 1 2/3 hitless innings. Hamilton Bennett retired the only batter he faced in the eighth and Taylor Whitenton worked around a hit and a walk in recording his fifth save.

Ashley Marshall is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.
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