Montgomery teaches Drive kids a lesson

Yankees prospect goes career-high seven innings on 69 pitches

Jordan Montgomery is averaging 11.3 strikeouts per nine innings in eight starts for Charleston. (Rick Nelson/MiLB.com)

By Jake Seiner / MiLB.com | May 23, 2015 11:08 PM

There are a whole bunch of prospects in Class A Greenville's lineup, but there's also a lot of teenagers. On Saturday night, University of South Carolina product Jordan Montgomery took the Drive to school.

The 2014 fourth-round pick set a career high with seven scoreless innings, allowing two hits and striking out eight as the RiverDogs picked up a 5-4, South Atlantic League victory.

Red Sox's top prospect Yoan Moncada exited with an apparent lower-body injury in the top of the eighth. Five days after debuting with Greenville, the infielder legged out a triple but came up limping after sliding into third. After consulting with a trainer, Moncada walked off the field. The Drive had no update on his status after the game.

Montgomery (4-2) needed only 69 pitches (57 strikes) to complete seven frames. He dropped his ERA to 2.27 through eight starts and has 50 strikeouts against 11 walks over 39 2/3 innings. 

The 22-year-old left-hander faced a lineup that featured four of Boston's Top 30 prospects -- Moncada, Rafael Devers, Michael Chavis and Mauricio Dubon. Each of them, except Dubon, is a teenager -- Dubon is 20 -- and all are getting their first full-season Minor League experience this year.

Montgomery went after the talented kids with a deep arsenal developed while pitching at a top college program. As a group, those four prospects went 1-for-10 with three strikeouts against him.

"I just threw my fastball in and out today," Montgomery said. "Then I had my changeup, curve and cutter going when I needed them.

"I've had decent fastball command [all year]. Today, I was really focused on establishing the fastball early and pounded it in there to get a couple strikes, then I could get to my off-speed to keep them off-balanced."

Montgomery signed for $424,000 -- exactly the alloted slot bonus -- as a fourth-round pick. The left-hander attended South Carolina, where he earned freshman All-America honors on the Gamecocks' 2012 national championship team. As a junior in 2014, he went 8-5 with a 3.42 ERA and 95 strikeouts in 100 innings.

In his college days, the southpaw usually worked between 88-92 mph with his fastball. He said he's added strength as a pro, taking his velocity range to 88-94, with more heaters coming in north of 90 than in the past. Those extra ticks have proved useful as Montgomery tries to establish his fastball inside.

"Most of my pitches work off my fastball in," he said, "the change away, the curve down, the cutter in. It just kind of opens a lot of windows."

The Sumter, South Carolina, native uses a four-pitch mix and usually relies on his changeup as a putaway offering. That differed on Saturday, however.

"Usually, my best off-speed out pitch is my change," he said. "But tonight, most of [the strikeouts] were off the curveball or the fastballs. Those were my out pitches tonight. I worked off that, elevating the fastball for strikes and backdoor curves or I even buried a few."

The southpaw worked toward contact early, picking up his first five outs on balls in play. His first strikeout victim was Moncada, who went down looking to end the second. He added two punchouts in the third and another to end the fourth.

Montgomery's best frame was the sixth, when he started off by striking out Carlos Mesa and Joseph Monge on six pitches. Then he needed only two more pitches to get Dubon to fly out to right.

Sean Carley replaced Montgomery for the eighth. Moncada laced his triple to center with one out and pinch-runner Javier Guerra scored two batters later on Mesa's single to right. 

With two men on, Dubon -- ranked 29th in Boston's system -- crushed a three-run homer to left. The round-tripper was the third this year for the shortstop, tying a career high. Dubon is hitting .286 with a .737 OPS and eight stolen bases.

Jake Seiner is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Jake_Seiner. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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