DENVER -- Elehuris Montero’s laugh bridged languages and reinforced a message he has delivered with his bat for the past week-plus.
During his first three call-ups to the Rockies from Triple-A, manager Bud Black rationed Montero’s playing time. Most of his activity was pregame defensive work at third base and first base. And Black insisted that even when not playing, just becoming accustomed to the Major League life and his teammates was valuable.
A Cards prospect before coming in the trade that sent Nolan Arenado to St. Louis before last season, Montero laughed to, then with, his Spanish-English interpreter, bullpen catcher Aaron Muñoz. The smile didn’t leave when Muñoz let the English speakers in on the laughter.
“Without a doubt, I’m the type of guy that learns from watching -- but I learn a lot more from playing,” said Montero, whose 2-for-4 performance improved him to 13-for-30 (.433) in his latest recall to the Majors. “I want to play. I want to make those adjustments in-game.”
With the Rockies last in the National League West, playing opportunity for Montero should no longer be an issue.
Montero, 23, began his hit streak on July 9, his last game before being optioned to Triple-A. He has started all eight games since returning, even though the team has regulars in third baseman Ryan McMahon and first baseman C.J. Cron.
If the pattern holds of him in the lineup at one of the corners or serving as the designated hitter (like he did Wednesday), he’ll be in the lineup for Thursday afternoon’s finale of the three-game set against Arenado and the Cardinals.
With a home run, four doubles and five runs in this call-up, Montero has the look of a player here to stay.
“This week, you’ve seen the hits coming, but even prior to the hits, the swings were good, the bat speed was there but the timing was off a little,” Black said. “Whether there were some nerves associated with the first 20-30 at-bats, he looks much more comfortable. He’s on the fastball and he’s timed up some breaking balls.”
Montero has utilized the help of teammates to help his transition.
“Of course, you talk to your teammates,” Montero said. “The biggest one is [Brendan] Rodgers that comes to mind. I pick his brain on the plan and attack he has going into the game, then feed off that and talk to him and get a little bit more familiar after his at-bats.
“I like to watch video, trying to read the movements of the pitches, and also the velocity. The velo is important, but the video is to get the movement of the pitches.”
So, the rookie is well-studied. During this eight-game stretch, he has struck out only nine times. He has not chased out of the strike zone the way he did in some earlier games, and has shown increased strike-zone awareness.
Montero understands what he represents.
When the Rockies dealt Arenado before last season, lefty reliever Austin Gomber arrived first. While Gomber was solid as a starter last season, he has been inconsistent this year. In relief Wednesday, he gave up six hits, including two solo homers. There is plenty of time to grade that aspect of the deal. Montero was the highest-rated of the prospects in the blockbuster. Pitcher Tony Locey is at Double-A Hartford, infielder Mateo Gil is at Single-A Spokane and pitcher Jake Sommers has spent the season rehabbing an elbow injury.
Montero is excited about facing old Cardinals organization-mates and being on the same field with Arenado, who pulled a familiar homer into the left-field corner off Gomber.
“It feels great to be compared to a guy like that and have my name attached to him, via trade,” Montero said. “It's something that I don't take lightly. I appreciate it. It’s an honor.”