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Montas returns with a much-improved slider

MINNEAPOLIS -- When Frankie Montas' mound repertoire gets talked about, a fastball touching 100 mph immediately draws the focus.

The hard-throwing 22-year-old, who was part of the first wave of White Sox September callups Tuesday with Erik Johnson, Leury Garcia and Rob Brantly, worked on commanding that high-octane pitch during this past season at Double-A Birmingham. But the right-hander believes that his slider is now as much of a weapon as that explosive fastball.

"Right now, I feel like my slider is my strikeout pitch," said Montas. "Even though I have my fastball, which is a good pitch, too, I feel like my second best pitch is my slider.

"It's progressed a lot. In Spring Training, I was throwing it but not how I wanted. Now I feel like I control more of how I want it. Just throwing it more in the game, practicing it a lot -- It's getting better."

Montas started 25 games this season for Double-A Birmingham and finished with a 5-5 record, 2.97 ERA and 108 strikeouts over 112 innings pitched. As general manager Rick Hahn mentioned Tuesday, Montas could get a start for the White Sox before the 2015 season comes to a close, but he figures to work primarily out of the bullpen.

Moving from starting to relieving, at least in the short term, doesn't seem like much of an adjustment in Montas' mind.

"I feel like it doesn't matter where you are," Montas said. "If you are in the bullpen, closer or a starter, you have to go out there and compete. You have to do your best. I feel like I'm going to do whatever they want me to do. If they want me to be a starter, I'll be a starter. If they want me in the bullpen, I'll be in the bullpen."

Some thought that Montas could have become the closer this season if the White Sox had stayed in the reshaping mode and not added David Robertson with a four-year, $46-million deal. But the No. 3 White Sox prospect per -- behind only shortstop Tim Anderson and right-handed pitcher Carson Fulmer -- needs to continue refining his overall repertoire to move into any sort of late inning role.

As the extra man for a July 17 doubleheader against the Royals, Montas did more observing than talking as a big leaguer. He feels more comfortable with this second callup and is looking forward to the thrill of having his name called by manager Robin Ventura for some form of relief.

"Actually I was happy that even though I didn't get to pitch, I felt really excited when I was here," said Montas of his first short stint with the White Sox. "Now I feel like a big league game -- I know how it is, how it's like being in the bullpen and so many emotions you are feeling in the bullpen. Like they are going to call you and say, 'Hey Montas is going to be in the game.'

"It was a good experience. I don't feel disappointed about not pitching. I'm just happy they gave me an opportunity to be here."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin and listen to his podcast.
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