"Jordan was a dark horse," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said Friday night. "But he had different plans."
Those plans saw him pitch so well that he won a spot in the Yankees' rotation, and he has continued to pitch so well that he's now a trusted member of the starting staff. Manager Joe Girardi had no problem letting Montgomery finish seven innings Friday night against the Orioles for the first time in his 11 Major League starts, as the lefty helped the Yankees to an 8-2 win.
"Eleven games in, so far I haven't been doing too bad," Montgomery said.
He's been better than that, with a 1.50 ERA in his last four starts and a 3.55 ERA for the season. He has won back-to-back starts for the first time, and Friday he struck out a career-high eight while giving up just two runs.
"I'm starting to trust myself a little more," Montgomery said. "Just throw it [in the strike zone], and whatever happens, happens."
What happened Friday was a quick first inning, but a walk and a Jonathan Schoop home run to start the second. Montgomery gave up two more hits in the second inning but no more runs, and he retired 17 of the last 18 Orioles batters he faced.
It was especially impressive, because Montgomery was in a tight game for most of the night. The Yankees didn't take the lead until Aaron Hicks' home run off Orioles starter Dylan Bundy in the sixth.
The one hit Montgomery allowed after the second inning was a Ruben Tejada double leading off the fifth. Tejada moved to third on a sacrifice bunt, but Montgomery got out of the inning on a line drive to short and a strikeout.
He needed just 94 pitches to finish seven innings.
"He didn't let it snowball [after the second]," Girardi said. "He settled in nicely."
Girardi only let Montgomery pitch into the seventh inning twice in his first 10 starts. He got two outs in the seventh on May 6 at Wrigley Field, but a walk and a triple ended his outing. He got two outs in the seventh on May 23 against the Royals at Yankee Stadium, but he gave up a Lorenzo Cain home run and didn't finish the inning.
Montgomery finished it impressively Friday, needing just 10 pitches to send the Orioles down in order.
"We're giving him small bits and pieces," Girardi said. "You want to see him clear hurdles, and he's clearing them. We really like what he's doing."
Montgomery has been solid, helping the Yankees become one of just three teams to reach this point of the season without making a change to their original starting rotation. The first change will come Sunday, and only because the Yanks decided to push the struggling Masahiro Tanaka back by a day.
There's been no need for them to wonder about Montgomery, especially not in the three weeks since he gave up five runs in five innings in Kansas City. Montgomery said Friday he simply slowed himself down on the mound, and the results followed.
"What he's doing has been much needed, and much appreciated," Cashman said.
He just keeps clearing hurdles.
Danny Knobler is a contributor to MLB.com based in New York.