Montas allowed two unearned runs across 5.2 innings over three Cactus League starts before spring training was suspended. The hard-throwing right-hander didn't allow that pair of runs until his third and final appearance of spring, which came against the Brewers on March 8. Although he naturally didn't get fully stretched out due to the abrupt interruption in play, Montas will presumably have a chance to do so during any ramp-up period to the 2020 season. He's expected to slide into the No. 2 spot in the rotation behind Sean Manaea to start the season, although he arguably generated an ace-quality performance during a 2019 campaign in which he lost 80 games due to a PED suspension.
Montas reverted to occasionally trying out a quick pitch during his third Cactus League start, Sunday versus the Brewers, Martin Gallegos of MLB.com reports. The right-hander deployed the tactic frequently during a rough 2017 season, when he bounced between the Athletics and Triple-A Nashville and was hit hard in both locales. Montas is an exponentially better pitcher these days, so he's likely to use the strategy only on occasion when he wants to add an element of surprise. Montas allowed two unearned runs on four hits across 2.2 innings against Milwaukee, a so-so performance coming off two strong starts to begin the spring. "My fastball was coming out good," Montas said. "I was just trying to get ready for the season."
Montas started Monday's Cactus League win over the Cubs and fired two scoreless innings, allowing no hits and one walk while also hitting a batter. He struck out two. On the heels of firing a perfect frame in his spring debut last Wednesday, Montas put together another mostly dominant outing over 32 pitches versus a Cubs lineup that was notably missing both Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo. The right-hander got some good work in, however, and Martin Gallegos of MLB.com reports the control issues that led to the free pass and hit batsman could have been due to some of the experimentation Montas was doing with his pitch selection. "He was working on his splitter and slider," manager Bob Melvin said. "Got a little out of whack for a minute. He's usually quite the strike-thrower. But he ended up finding it again."
Montas started Wednesday's Cactus League win over the Diamondbacks and fired a perfect first inning during which he recorded a strikeout. Montas needed just 15 pitches to get through his one frame, nine of which found the strike zone. Martin Gallegos of MLB.com reports the right-hander hit 99 mph with his fastball and looked sharp after pitching 25 innings in the Dominican Winter League and generating a 1.44 ERA. Montas felt the extra offseason work was necessary after he missed 80 games in 2019 due to a PED suspension, and he's already made an early impression on manager Bob Melvin with how prepared he arrived in camp. "We're looking for him to replicate what he did last year and what he did in the start he had late in the season after sitting out for so long," Melvin said. "He's eager to contribute to his team for a full season. He wants to be one of the high-end starters we have."
Montas, who's coming off a career-best season in 2019, was impressive while facing live hitters for the first time Thursday, Martin Gallegos of MLB.com reports. The right-hander could be poised for his best year yet in 2020 if he can remain healthy, and Thursday's strong showing was certainly an excellent first step. Montas was subject to an 80-game suspension for violating MLB's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program last season, but he still managed career bests in wins (nine), ERA (2.63), WHIP (1.11) and strikeouts (103) across 16 starts. Given his mid-90s fastball and body of work in 2019, Montas could ultimately prove to be the ace of the staff this season if he manages to stay on the field.
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