Unsatisfied Montgomery sets bar high for 2018

Second-year hurler led AL rookies in innings pitched, strikeouts in '17

February 12th, 2018

TAMPA, Fla. -- By most measures, enjoyed a solid first season in the big leagues, but he may be his own toughest critic. The Yankees' left-hander made it clear on Monday that he was not satisfied with his performance last season, and plans to set the bar higher for 2018.

"I kind of panicked last year a little bit, which is not usual for me," Montgomery said. "I didn't make many adjustments. My fastball was inconsistent. My changeup was gone. I really got through the year with two pitches. If I hadn't had my curveball to throw for strikes and then expand with it, who knows what would have happened?"

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Montgomery, 25, was 9-7 with a 3.88 ERA in 29 starts over five Major League stints with the Yankees last season. He led all American League rookies in starts, strikeouts (144) and innings (155 1/3), riding an excellent spring to unexpectedly earn a place in the big league rotation.

This year, Montgomery is coming into camp as the front-runner for the fifth rotation slot, but he said that will not alter his attitude. He believes that he has a better feel for his changeup than he had last year, and is trying to fine-tune the consistency of his delivery.

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"I always try to work as hard as I can and treat it like nothing is guaranteed," Montgomery said. "I feel like when you slack off and you think you've got it made, that's when the carpet is going to get pulled out from underneath you."

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman has been forthright about his desire to add another starting pitcher to a mix that includes Montgomery, , , and . will also prepare as a starter this spring.

Pitching coach Larry Rothschild said that he is confident with the current starting five, the same names that helped the Yankees get within one victory of the World Series, but championed the idea of adding another hurler if possible.

"If we stay healthy, I like what we have," Rothschild said. "The odds aren't with us, if you go year to year and look at the staffs staying healthy. You're not going to use just five starters in a year, and you're lucky if you get under less than 10, really."

Montgomery said that he tried not to pay attention to any of the Hot Stove chatter about fitting another pitcher for pinstripes.

"I can't control any of that, so I'm not going to let it take my happiness or joy away," Montgomery said. "I'm just going to do my thing, carry myself the right way and work as hard as I can."