On May 21, Rafael Montero got his first taste of Triple-A, allowing two runs on four hits over 6 2/3 innings for Las Vegas.
The exposure to the Pacific Coast League must not have left the 22-year-old right-hander very impressed with Double-A hitters, since he's yet to allow a run in two starts since returning to the Eastern League.
The Mets' No. 8 prospect scattered five hits and a walk while striking out four over seven innings Saturday night and pitched Binghamton to a 6-0 blanking of New Hampshire.
In two outings since that cameo appearance at Triple-A, Montero (6-3) has fanned 12 over 13 scoreless innings to bring his ERA down to 2.72, good for sixth in the Eastern League.
One of the keys for the native of the Dominican Republic has been how infrequently he's issued walks. He's given up only nine free passes while striking out 66 over 59 2/3 innings for the B-Mets.
"He's done a nice job of very consistently this year locating in and out," said Binghamton pitching coach Glenn Abbott, who had an 11-year career in the big leagues with the A's, Mariners and Tigers. "I think he's ahead of his years. He's only been in the States here for three years and he pays good attention, has a great idea of what's going on. Still learning all the time."
Montero seemingly has yet to be challenged in three Minor League seasons. Pitching across four levels in 2011, he compiled a 2.15 ERA and 66 strikeouts against 13 walks in 71 innings. He split last season between Class A Savannah and Class A Advanced St. Lucie and went 1-5 with a 2.36 ERA, 110 strikeouts and 19 walks in 122 frames.
And this year, the pattern of quickly moving through a level appears to be continuing -- if the spot start for Las Vegas is a sign of things to come.
"I know he pitched there like he does here. I knew how he'd pitch," Abbott said of Montero's PCL outing. "I talked to [Las Vegas pitching coach] Randy St. Claire, and the thing about him is, he's a young guy and nothing bothers him. He just goes out there and pitches. Earlier this year, he gave up 10 runs in one game, but you would never know it by how he was pitching. It was the same -- he just kept throwing strikes, you wouldn't know if he was winning by 10 or down by 10.
"And his next outing was one of his best all year. He rebounded very well. It's impressive with a young kid to have that kind of poise."
That ability to command his stuff so well and keep throwing strikes is what likely will make the difference for Montero.
"You get players at this level and most of the guys have got the stuff to pitch in the big leagues -- but just the stuff," Abbott said. "I tell them their command will dictate how far they go in this game. I think he just needs experience.
"I'd like to see him get more aggressive in the zone. He's got more work to do, but he does a god job."
Offensively for Binghamton, Cory Vaughn went 3-for-5 with two RBIs and fell a triple shy of the cycle. Daniel Muno also had three hits, including a homer, and drove in three runs.