Mets want Montero to mix his pitch selection
Righty relied on just fastballs during outing against Braves
ATLANTA -- Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen had only one bullet point on his agenda when he arrived at Turner Field on Saturday afternoon: drill the importance of pitch selection into Rafael Montero's skull.
A night earlier, the rookie threw 35 consecutive fastballs to the Braves, who fouled off over a third of them before Phil Gosselin finally smoked one into center field for a go-ahead two-run single. Though Warthen jogged out to the mound once during that sequence, encouraging Montero -- if nothing else -- to throw more two-seamers, catcher Travis d'Arnaud kept calling fastball after fastball, most of them four-seamers. And Montero did not shake off a single one of them.
"Even a mule can shake his head," Warthen said. "He has to learn to shake off and call his own pitches."
In his first stint with the Mets last summer, Montero threw his two-seam fastball, slider and changeup almost half the time combined, showcasing those pitches in posting a 1.40 ERA over his final five appearances. But impressed by the four-seamer that Montero was delivering as fast as 96 mph on Friday night, d'Arnaud stuck with that pitch. In a tie game, the catcher did not want to risk Montero growing erratic with his offspeed pitches.
"I should have probably put down a three or a four, a slider or a changeup," d'Arnaud said. "I'll take responsibility for that."
To prevent the same thing from happening in the future, Warthen said, he spoke to Montero about the importance of using all his pitches on a regular basis -- particularly his two-seamer, which comes in slow enough compared to his four-seamer to give hitters pause. Warthen also enlisted the help of Bartolo Colon, who relies extensively on fastballs, but varies their speeds and locations. Colon told Montero, in Warthen's words, not to try to "be like me."
Montero has struggled to adapt to some big league lessons early in his career, most notably when the Mets tried to help him avoid tipping his pitches last summer. But the sooner he learns this one, the better. With closer Jenrry Mejia set to miss 80 games for a performance-enhancing drug suspension, the Mets are counting on Montero to give them critical outs in the seventh inning of games, with Carlos Torres shifting to the eighth and Jeurys Familia closing.
"A lot of that has to do with youth," Warthen said of Montero's struggles at Turner Field. "He'll mature. He'll get there."