Rockies rookie steps up in big spot vs. Bumgarner

August 6th, 2022

PHOENIX -- Even though Elehuris Montero is having quite a bit of fun being back in the big leagues, that’s not all his current stint with the Rockies is about. The 23-year-old is also here to gain the type of experience that should be valuable for him -- and his team -- for the future.

Take what happened during Colorado’s 6-5 loss to Arizona on Friday night at Chase Field for example.

The Rockies were rallying in the sixth inning, and they had just taken a 3-2 lead on Yonathan Daza’s RBI single. After that, an error by D-backs third baseman Josh Rojas loaded the bases for Montero, who had an opportunity to break the game open against left-hander Madison Bumgarner.

That’s no easy assignment. Colorado knows it, too. Since Bumgarner signed with Arizona prior to the 2020 season, he’d had little trouble against the Rox when they had visited the desert, entering Friday with a 3-0 record and a 1.59 ERA in his previous three Chase Field starts against them.

But Montero, the Rockies’ No. 6 prospect per MLB Pipeline, showed he was more than ready for the challenge in that big spot. After all, he had already lined an 0-1 fastball from Bumgarner for a double in the third inning.

When Montero stepped to the plate in the sixth for his third at-bat of the night, he wasted no time. Bumgarner hung a first-pitch curveball over the middle of the plate, and Montero knocked it to left field, driving in a pair of runs for the first two RBIs of his big league career.

It looked like Montero was waiting on a breaking pitch. It turns out, that may not have been his approach.

“Honestly, I was just ready for any pitch,” Montero said through an interpreter.

That mindset was paired with knowledge he had gained. The previous time Montero had been in the Majors, he played in seven games, the last of which featured a matchup against Bumgarner. In that July 9 contest, the veteran got the best of Montero, who went 0-for-3 with a strikeout against him.

Since then, Montero has continued to put in work to improve, his effort being lauded numerous times by manager Bud Black. That included research about how to get the better of Bumgarner. So it worked out for Montero that the offerings he saw Friday looked quite familiar.

“He pitched me similarly to what he did the first time around, and I was lucky to make that adjustment,” Montero said.

The Rockies couldn’t preserve the lead that Montero gave them, despite chasing Bumgarner in the sixth and collecting 10 hits against him. Arizona got to Colorado’s bullpen, scoring two runs in the seventh and another pair in the eighth.

While Montero’s hit may not have powered the team to victory, it was still beneficial to his development.

“Against a guy like Bumgarner and getting a big hit, it’s comforting for him, right? It’s confidence,” Black said. “When you come through, it only helps a young player when you deliver. Hopefully he can build on that moving forward. It’s so early in his career, it’s in its infancy. But so far, so good.”

Montero is impressing some of the veterans in the Rockies’ clubhouse as well.

“I enjoy seeing that guy play,” said right-hander Germán Márquez, who allowed two runs in six innings. “He’s working at it and plays so hard. I love it.”

In his three earlier stints in the Majors (all this season), Montero received only sporadic playing time. After being called back up from Triple-A Albuquerque on Tuesday, he’s now started four consecutive games, recording a hit in each and going 5-for-14 with three doubles.

Montero is showcasing the offensive skill set the Rockies were excited about when they acquired him from the Cardinals in the Nolan Arenado trade in February 2021. And considering Colorado is 4-12 to open the second half, there should be plenty of playing time available for young players like him down the stretch.

Montero plans to keep making the most of it.

“I feel confident at the plate right now, and hopefully I can continue to keep doing the same thing as we go,” Montero said. “I feel great, I’m having fun. I’m just trying to take advantage of this opportunity they’ve given me.”