Montgomery, Gorman close out camp on high note

March 27th, 2023

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Jordan Montgomery has been established long enough that he’s earned the luxury of not having to sweat the small stuff.

Unlike some of his younger Cardinals teammates this spring, the six-year veteran starter entered Grapefruit League play with a firm grasp on a middle-of-the-order rotation gig. Montgomery’s main goals, he’s said before, were to build up his pitch count, throw strikes and stay healthy.

Even though results were secondary, a five-inning, one-run outing during Monday’s 8-2 win against the Orioles at Ed Smith Stadium was a good way to wrap his spring.

The four strikeouts against three hits and one walk during his 72 pitches -- 49 of which he threw for strikes -- was a nice little feather in Montgomery’s cap.

“You want to end on a good one, or at least kind of throwing it where you want it,” he said. “I was really happy with how it went, and I’m excited for when I get to get it out there.”

Montgomery will now head north with the Cards and experience his first Opening Day at Busch Stadium as part of the home team after spending parts of six seasons with the Yankees. St. Louis inherited a workhorse who can bulldog his way through the minor dings and who made 32 starts in 2022 and 30 in ‘21 in a testament to his durability.

He spent the last part of 2022 getting used to his new club after he was traded from New York just prior to the Deadline. Montgomery won his first four starts after the trade, and closed out the year with a 6-3 record and career-best 3.11 ERA with the Cards.

In turn, he was rewarded with a one-year deal worth $10 million for this season.

“We felt good about it,” manager Oliver Marmol said. “His stuff played well today.”

Montgomery now feels at home with St. Louis, but the American League East will still be there to welcome him on his first start of the season, as the Cardinals host the Blue Jays in their season-opening series beginning Thursday.

In 10 career games (nine starts) against Toronto, Montgomery has limited the team to a .238 batting average and has posted a 3-1 record and a 3.86 ERA. Considering that his next start comes when results will matter, at least Montgomery will have some familiarity in his opponent, if not comfort.

“I’ve faced the Blue Jays too many times to count. They’re following me around,” he said with a chuckle. “I wouldn’t say facing their lineup is comfortable. They’re pretty loaded with a bunch of talented guys, but every team in the big leagues, you just have to go out there and make pitches, so if you think about it like that, then you just go out there and compete.”

Gorman closes on a high note
Cards designated hitter Nolan Gorman finished Grapefruit League play with a bang, slugging his fourth homer of the spring with two outs in the fourth inning. The 400-foot-plus solo blast came on an 0-1 pitch off of O’s starter Dean Kremer and left the park via straightaway center field, giving St. Louis a 2-1 lead it wouldn’t lose.

No one’s expecting the 22-year-old Gorman to step into Albert Pujols’ shoes without a hiccup. After scuffling over the last month of his rookie season and retooling his swing this past winter to make sure those woes were behind him, though, Gorman slashed .288/.373/.538 this spring, including a double, the four home runs and 13 RBIs.

It seemed, Marmol said, an apt reward for the hard work that went into not only changing his swing but also his position -- Gorman was taken by the Cards as a third baseman in the 2018 MLB Draft -- and balancing risk against reward with no guarantee he’d make the team out of spring.

“I think when you are making a change, especially at the highest level, especially like the path of your swing because your body moves a certain way and your posture, they're real changes,” Marmol said. “... It's a hard adjustment to make. It's another one to carry it into a game against 95-plus [mph pitching], and he's done that in a short period of time in the spring. …

“He should be proud of the spring he’s had.”

Matz in line for Braves
Steven Matz will pitch live batting practice Wednesday in St. Louis, Marmol confirmed Monday. This sets up the left-hander -- St. Louis’ No. 5 starter -- to make his regular-season debut on April 4 against Atlanta in the middle matchup of the three-game home series.