Montgomery adapting to role as reliever

Mariners lefty has learned to warm up quickly, control emotions

May 14th, 2016

SEATTLE -- Mike Montgomery didn't hit the walk-off home run. He didn't get credit as the winning pitcher. He didn't get swarmed with reporters asking questions afterward. But the Mariners lefty reliever played as big a part as anyone in Seattle's 6-5, 11-inning victory over the Rays on Wednesday.

The converted starter has become an important cog in the Mariners' surprising bullpen and he was called upon in the latest dramatic win, with runners on first and third and two out in the sixth, after Taijuan Walker faltered and gave up a grand slam, allowing the Rays to pull into a 4-4 tie.

Learning to warm up rapidly has been one of Montgomery's biggest challenges and he only had time for 12 quick throws in the bullpen before he found himself facing Kevin Kiermaier with momentum suddenly swinging the Rays' way. But Montgomery struck out Kiermaier, then zipped through the next two frames, as well, to help preserve a worn-down 'pen and put Seattle in position for its late win.

"Taijuan was cruising and I knew with [Steve] Cishek and [Joel] Peralta down, there was a pretty good chance I was going to pitch," Montgomery said. "When he started getting in trouble, I figured I might be first up. And sure enough, they called down, and I think I had two batters [to warm up].

"I'd just gotten up and realized I've got to be quick here. The one guy got a walk and then there was a hit and I knew at that point I better be ready, so I threw a couple breaking balls and said, 'It is what it is. That's what I'm going to go out there with.' You have to trust that."

Montgomery said he's quickly learned he needs to control his adrenaline when he gets called on to come in with runners already on base.

"It's definitely a lot better after doing it a couple times, just being more aware of not being quite as amped up," he said. "That's the key thing, because you don't want to overthrow in that situation. It can be really easy to do that."

Montgomery has adapted quickly. None of his six inherited runners have scored, and he's posted a 2.41 ERA in 12 outings, allowing five runs and 11 hits in 18 2/3 innings with 15 strikeouts and six walks. Take away his third outing of the year -- a six-hit, four-run stumble in two innings in Texas -- and he's been sensational, with just one run and five hits in 16 2/3 innings.

"Monte continues to throw the ball well," said manager Scott Servais. "It's kind of nice because he does have history as a starter and you can run him through some right-handed hitters and feel very comfortable that he has the weapons to get through them. He's been throwing great."