Back from injured list, Montas hits the ground running

May 8th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Mark Sheldon’s Reds Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

CINCINNATI -- Tuesday marked Reds starting pitcher return from the injured list. He immediately became part of the collateral damage created by a slumping offense.

But Montas was elated with himself. Not only was his right forearm fine, but his surgically repaired right shoulder also let him dial up extra velocity.

Montas pitched six innings vs. the Diamondbacks. Despite allowing only two runs (one earned) on four hits and one walk with seven strikeouts, he was on the wrong side of a 6-2 loss. The Reds, who have lost six games in a row, have been outscored by 24 runs (34-10) during the losing streak.

"The only thing we can do is continue to go out there and try to put up a quality start," said Montas, who is 2-3 with a 3.55 ERA. "We still have a lot of time in the season to let guys figure out how to get out of a slump."

On April 21 vs. the Angels, Montas was 16 pitches into his fifth start of the season when he was struck below his right elbow by a line drive. It knocked him out of the game and forced him onto the 15-day IL. He missed his next two starts due to the issue.

There was a lot to like about Montas' return vs. Arizona.

There was added life to Montas' pitches. His four-seam fastball averaged 95.9 mph and topped out at 99 mph. His sinker and cutter also tracked at higher speeds than his season average.

"We’ve been working these 15-plus days [that] I was not pitching," Montas said. "I put a lot of emphasis on fixing my mechanics and doing the stuff I need to do, because when I came back, I wanted to be able to perform."

Montas, who had shoulder surgery in February 2023 and pitched just 1 1/3 innings last season for the Yankees, proved beyond any doubt that he is all the way back.

"All I wanted was to go out there without being afraid of letting go," he said. "I told myself so many times, ‘Be patient.’ I was being afraid of getting hurt again or whatever. I thought, ‘Hey, your shoulder is fixed. It doesn’t hurt. It doesn’t bother you. Let it eat.’ Which feels good.

"The result is we lost the game. Personally, to go out there and let it eat, throw as hard as I can and feel good and throw six innings, I feel good about that."

In the third inning, Montas gave up a leadoff walk, followed by a single that would lead to a run scoring on a fielder's choice. In the fifth inning, shortstop Elly De La Cruz's fielding error on Tucker Barnhart's grounder led to an unearned run when he scored on Corbin Carroll's one-out RBI single that made it a 2-0 game. Montas settled in to make it through six frames.

"First time back, he had a two-week layoff, so we didn’t want him to go too deep in the game, but he got us pretty deep into it," manager David Bell said. "A lot of that had to do with how good his stuff was and how efficient he was."