Montas' rocky debut extends Yanks' skid

Right-hander lasts just 3 innings as New York drops 5th straight

August 8th, 2022

ST. LOUIS -- You can’t judge a trade after a week. In some cases, you can’t judge a trade after a year.

But in the early going, the returns from the acquisitions the Yankees made before Tuesday's Trade Deadline have not exactly come rushing in. New outfielder Andrew Benintendi has four hits in 29 at-bats since joining the club. Harrison Bader is still recovering from plantar fasciitis in his right foot and the team has yet to announce when he’ll make it into center field.

The one Major League pitcher the Yankees dealt, Jordan Montgomery, just tossed five scoreless innings on Saturday -- and it was against them.

But the big prize to come out of the Yankees' trade talks was flame-throwing right-hander Frankie Montas, a pitcher they’re hoping can slot somewhere behind ace Gerrit Cole and help lead them to their first World Series title in 13 years. The immediate returns in his case also weren’t great.

Montas made his Yankees debut and lasted just three innings in a wild 12-9 loss to the Cardinals on Sunday afternoon at Busch Stadium. Montas walked three batters, gave up a towering three-run home run to Nolan Arenado and started an early cavalcade of New York relievers that led to a laborious four-hour, 25-minute game -- the longest nine-inning game in Busch Stadium history.

The loss handed the Yankees their first three-game sweep of the season. Their five-game losing streak is also their longest this year.

Sunday’s start was a tough spot for Montas, who didn’t even meet most of his teammates until he walked into the clubhouse just hours before first pitch. After being acquired from Oakland, he went on the bereavement list to support his wife at their home in Arizona following the death of her mother. Montas didn’t arrive in St. Louis until Saturday evening. He also had been working his way back from some weakness in the back of his right shoulder and he isn’t built up to throw as many as 100 pitches yet anyway.

The Yankees scrambled to arrange a meeting with catcher Jose Trevino at the team hotel, but they acknowledged Montas' late arrival after a whirlwind week wasn’t exactly ideal. The club had pondered other days to insert him into its rotation, but eventually landed on the series finale at Busch after phone conversations with Montas.

“Certainly a tough situation for him, but he wanted to be out there. He wanted to compete,” manager Aaron Boone said. “We felt like he was ready to go and got this first one underway. He’s going to do big things for us.”

If you’re looking for signs of encouragement, the Yankees can point to the 97 mph radar readings in Montas’ outing. That's fairly significant considering a velocity drop was what first clued the A’s into the shoulder injury in late June. Since the start of July, Montas has pitched only 12 innings, so he’s still building his body back up. Boone said Montas would be on a pitch limit no matter how well things went Sunday.

Another encouraging aspect to come out of the trades? Reliever Lou Trivino, part of the deal that brought Montas to the Yankees in exchange for four prospects, made his fourth straight scoreless appearance since joining the team. Still, until Montas is able to pitch more than five innings with results better than his Yanks debut, no one is going to judge New York's Trade Deadline moves a success.

“My mechanics weren’t in sync. I wasn’t having the best delivery today. I was all over the place,” Montas said. “But my arm feels good and that’s what I care about.”

Montas described his general reaction to the trade from last-place Oakland to the 70-39 Yankees as “awesome.”

“This is the best team right now,” he said. “They have a really good group right here. I’m excited to be here. I wanted to go out there and show what I can do. That was not the case today, but this is not my last one. This is the first one.”

The fact that the Yankees made it to August without being swept in a three-game series speaks to the charmed season they’re having. It’s not as if five bad games is going to cause panic in the Bronx, but some struggles by the bullpen, the lack of production from the newly acquired players and injuries and underperformance in the lineup does put them in position of having to figure out how to emerge from their first funk of 2022.

“We need to play better, to be quite frank,” Josh Donaldson said. “At the end of the day, we still feel very good about our team. It’s a little slide right now. We need to get back on track and continue playing hard.”

One missing ingredient has been power. After homering in 19 straight games, the Yankees didn’t find their way out of Busch Stadium this weekend until DJ LeMahieu hit a solo home run when they were down by four runs in the ninth inning on Sunday. Had LeMahieu’s ball not left the yard, the Yanks would have gone three straight games without a homer for the first time since July 21-24 last season.

“We’re definitely going through it right now,” LeMahieu said. “I’m frustrated with how we’ve played, but I still feel really good about our team and how we’ve done this year as a whole.”