Montgomery embraces move back to 'pen

Lefty takes pride in versatility for defending champions

July 23rd, 2017

CHICAGO -- Mike Montgomery is a capable starter, filling in after an injury to with several solid outings, and he's done his part in the bullpen, notching a rare four-inning save on May 25 and pitching in several relief roles.

But if there's any one thing that makes the left-hander so valuable, it might just be his mindset.

"He's very talented, very durable and resilient. A lot of times a guy who starts can't warm up quickly and come into a game and be able to pitch the next day like he can," said Cubs manager Joe Maddon. "Beyond that, he accepts it, he understands it, he gets it. I think a lot of times a guy will fight that mentally. They don't like this idea, they want to be a starter, it's beneath them [to work in relief]. They're offended. He's processed things really well."

That mentality is a staple of what Montgomery does.

The lefty envisions himself as a starter someday -- as does his manager -- but he also understands there sacrifices are needed to be successful, something he's embraced in Chicago.

"I think it's just part of the game," Montgomery said. "You want to be in the big leagues, and when you first get here you're thinking about, 'OK, how do I stay here?' And then you come to a winning team, like last year, you already win a World Series. ... I think that's what it is.

"When you're on a World Series contending team, you have to be willing to do anything. I think at the end of the day I will be a starter for a long time in this league, but for right now I'm going to go be a reliever and try to help this team get back to the playoffs."

Through eight starts, Montgomery showed flashes of a potential future role. He struggled on July 6 against the Brewers, allowing seven runs in 2 1/3 innings, but posted a 3.79 ERA in his other starts, which included two before he was fully stretched out.

Montgomery has made three quality starts in 2017, including his last outing in Atlanta, where he went six innings and allowed one run. He topped out with seven strikeouts in any one outing, but showed plenty of growth from his first starts -- where the pitch count quickly became an issue -- to his final one.

"Outside of one [start], I thought I did a really good job," Montgomery said. "There's a lot of challenges trying to become a starter in the middle of a year. One, physically. You kind of have to make up ground. The routines are necessary and when you don't have that right away it's harder, but I learned a lot from it."

And even with that learning experience, he doesn't see it as a negative that he has to return to the 'pen.

"There's not a lot of guys that have pitched in all the roles that I have pitched in. I kind of take pride in that," Montgomery said. "It's definitely a big compliment [to pitch in those roles], because that's really as a pitcher what your job is. You kind of look at it like, 'Yeah, there's starters, relievers and everything, but your job is just to get people out.'

"It's what I've worked to do and to let them know: 'Hey, I want to be valuable, so use me in whatever role and I'll be ready for it.'"