Montero in a learning process on the mound for the Mets

Rich Mancuso

 Rafael Montero the New York Mets rookie right-hander was center stage last week in his major League debut against the New York Yankees in the Bronx. There in the Subway Series, he tossed 6.0 innings, allowed three runs and got the loss with a quality start.

 Tuesday night at Citi Field the second start did not go as well, though the Mets offense once again did not do their job. Montero was long gone after 4-1/3 innings with a pitch count of 97. He is quickly 0-2 after his call-up from Triple-A Las Vegas.

It is a learning process for Montero, one of the highly touted pitchers the Mets have as they move forward. 

With a 9-4 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers, it was not the best way for the Mets to start a nine-game home stand. The nine-inning game lasted four hours and eight minutes, (4:08) which saw the Mets as a team strand ten base runners and waste numerous scoring opportunities.

One can’t blame Montero for the lack of offense. That has been a cycle with this Mets team in their first 44 games. And there is the prevailing question as to where Montero stands in the pitching rotation when Dillon Gee returns from the disabled list within the next two weeks. GM Sandy Alderson, and the manager Terry Collins will have that decision in due time.

But, Tuesday night was another learning experience for the youngster. He battled on the mound. And the home ball to Adrian Gonzalez, in the fifth inning with one-out and a runner on was another process of learning with a team that tries to find a winning formula.

Forget that this was another marathon loss for the Mets, and that they fell, less than a minute shy of trying the longest nine-inning game in franchise history.  With Montero, it is obvious he has the potential but still needs more time adapting to facing teams such as the Dodgers. Their outfield combination at the plate was ranked with the second best batting average, fourth in home runs and fifth in runs batted in.

“When you face quality hitters they’re not going to go fishing,” said Mets manager Terry Collins about the way Montero attacked the Dodgers lineup.  “When he attacks hitters, when he gets behind they’re hunting a pitch.”

And that’s what the Dodgers hitters did to Montero, they made him pitch. The pitch count was up and that led to another marathon game at Citi field.  The tie-breaking two-run home run from Gonzalez went over the right-center field wall and led to a four-run Dodgers fifth inning.

To his credit, Montero is not shy and offered no excuses. The Mets believe with this early call-up, experience will come and he will become one of the many and good prospects for their future.  

With an interpreter by his side, Montero said about the Gonzalez home run, "I tried to throw a slider, "Unfortunately he found where to hit it." Then, he was asked about his walk ratio and the four that appeared in his pitching line.  

"I'm not sure. I always try to throw strikes. I've continued to do what I've always done."

He showed his composure in the second inning facing Yasiel Puig at the plate. With runners on first and second and two out, he battled and got Puig to swing and miss on a slider. It was a pitch and situation that have the Mets optimistic when it comes to deciding where Montero will stand when Gee returns.

"I think it comes down to whatever decision the heads want to make,” said Montero about either he, or the other rookie, Jacob deGrom staying or going when Gee returns. “I just keep doing the same things that I always do."

Yes, it will take some more time to determine how good Montero can be. Two starts can’t make a determination and Collins does see the learning process continuing as long as his young pitcher is with the big club.

Said Collins, “He fell a lot behind tonight that’s why he threw a lot of pitches.” Perhaps in due time Montero will be what is expected. And the Mets showing limited offense do hope Montero gets better in his next start.

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