Mike Montgomery may not be pitching for the Arizona Fall League championship this weekend, but he was able to end his autumn on a positive note.
"I felt like I had a good Fall League," the Rays lefty said. "I missed a little bit of time this year, so I knew coming here would be a good challenge for me. I felt pretty comfortable. I did well, looking back, and I'm looking forward to getting back at it to next spring."
The Rays' No. 8 prospect delivered a pair of perfect innings after starter Aaron Sanchez allowed one run on six hits over five innings to help Salt River beat Scottsdale, 3-2, on the final day of the AFL.
Salt River (19-12) ended up a half-game back of first-place Mesa and a spot in the league championship. Scottsdale struggled to a 10-21 record.
"We felt good. We knew going in we couldn't really control what Mesa does," Montgomery said. "We felt confident as a team. We wanted to go into this week and win out and force Mesa to win. I felt like we had a good Fall League, we had a good team and we just came up a half-game short."
Trailing 1-0, Salt River tied the game in the fourth when Stephen Piscotty (Cardinals) walked, advanced to third on a double by Kyle Parker (Rockies) and scored on Mike Freeman's fielder's choice grounder. The Rafters pulled ahead an inning later when Dustin Garneau (Rockies) hit his fourth home run to left and Kenny Wilson (Blue Jays) scored on Piscotty's RBI single to center.
For Scottsdale, Mason Williams doubled and scored on a single by fellow Yankees prospect Addison Maruszak in the third and Alen Hanson (Pirates) knocked home Kyle Kubitza (Braves) in the eighth. Scorpions starter Kyle Crick (Giants) struck out five over three hitless innings before the Yankees' Brett Gerritse (0-2) allowed a pair of runs in the fifth.
It marked the end of Montgomery's first season with Tampa Bay following the December 2012 trade that sent him, Wil Myers, Pat Leonard and Jake Odorizzi to the Rays for James Shields and Wade Davis. Montgomery went 7-9 with a 4.83 ERA and 87 strikeouts in 117 1/3 innings this past season, mostly with Triple-A Durham, while Myers won American League Rookie of the Year honors with the Rays.
Although he hasn't ascended to the level of some of his fellow prospects, the southpaw's satisfied with what he accomplished this fall with Salt River.
"My biggest thing, I felt like, was trying to command my pitches and throw strikes," said Montgomery, who struck out two Thursday. "Coming in here, I wanted to work on my breaking ball -- improve that and try to take the challenge and try to put up zeros. That was the goal coming into the Fall League."
Montgomery also reflected upon fellow talents in the Rays system such as Myers and Chris Archer, who both reached the Majors in 2013.
"Those guys were well deserved. For me, it's fun -- I got to play with those guys this year," he said. "They're great players. To see the kind of talent and see them in the big leagues, it's motivating and exciting that I get to play with them and they're on my team. We've got a lot of great players, I want to try to do my best and be a part of that one day."
Montgomery finished his AFL stint at 0-1 with a 2.57 ERA and 14 strikeouts in 14 innings. He didn't allow a homer and walked just four batters.
"I'll probably go back home to California, I'll take some time off and then start things up again," he said. "I'll start throwing and getting in shape for next spring and get as ready as I can for next spring."