Montero Finding His Way

Montero is holding FSL batters to a .197 average

ST. LUCIE, FL - Signed by the New York Mets as a non-drafted free agent in 2011, Rafael Montero has been steadily rising through the minor league system. The Dominican native ended 2011 with Brooklyn, began 2012 with Savannah, and now finds himself making a splash in St. Lucie. Montero has a real live arm and with more experience he can become a big factor in the rotation.

In his debut with St. Lucie on June 23rd after a promotion from low-A Savannah, Rafael Montero held the Fort Myers Miracle scoreless through six innings. He departed after loading the bases with one out in the seventh, and was ultimately tagged with three earned runs and three hits over 6 1/3 innings of work. He also had seven strikeouts. Not bad for a first impression.

"I was nervous but after I made a couple of pitches and got people out, I started to gain my confidence," Montero said. "Baseball is the same anywhere for me."

"He has good stuff," St. Lucie Manager Ryan Ellis said. "He as a good fastball, and a good slider and changeup. As a young kid it's a work in progress but he has a very good arm."

The transition from pitching in the Dominican Republic to the United States has been smooth for Montero.

"It's the same here," Montero said. "It's baseball anywhere. The only difference is the crowds," he said laughing."

Numbers like those in his first start with St. Lucie are not out of the ordinary for Montero. He posted a 2.15 ERA over 71 innings in 2011 with numerous Mets minor league affiliates consisting of the Dominican Summer League, Gulf Coast League, Kingsport, and Brooklyn. He recorded 66 strikeouts and only 13 walks.

Before his promotion from low-A Savannah this year, he had a 2.52 ERA through 12 starts over 71 innings. Montero has carried it over to high-A St. Lucie and is staying within himself.

In Montero's second start for St. Lucie on June 29th, he once again did not disappoint. He pitched six strong innings against the Jupiter Hammerheads allowing only two earned runs while striking out four.

"I like his presence out there," Ellis said. "He holds runners well and he's quick to the plate. He has a good idea of what he's trying to do. He mixes pitches well. Even if something isn't working for him then he's not afraid to go back to it, so that's a good sign.

"Sometimes for young guys when something isn't working for them they neglect to go back to that pitch. But what I like is he's not afraid to go back to that pitch because either he's had success with it in the past or he realizes that it's a pitch that he really needs to develop. Either way it's a plus to see him not have his best stuff and still trying to execute his pitches."

Montero throws four pitches: a fastball, slider, changeup, and sinker. His fastball tops at 95 mph, the changeup is around 82 mph, the slider ranges near 83-84 mph, and the sinker sits between 89-92 mph.

The main piece of advice St. Lucie coaches offer Montero is to just simply be himself.

"They want me to just keep going, to keep doing what I'm doing," Montero said.

Montero also shed light on how he mentally prepares before each start, and talked about his approach on the mound.

"I think about and picture my release point to help me throw strikes," Montero revealed. "I want them to put the ball in play so I can work easier.

"My best strength is control, throwing strikes," he acknowledged. When I'm on the mound I just want to throw it low and in the strike zone. It's harder for them to hit it if I keep the pitches low."

Montero's latest start in front of a good crowd on July 5th was his most impressive. He went seven strong innings against the Jupiter Hammerheads allowing just one run on four hits while striking out four.

It is starts like these that St. Lucie is looking for. Montero provides inning depth and pitch control while continuing to make a name for himself.

In his three starts with St. Lucie, Montero has a 2.79 ERA, 15 strikeouts, and 6 walks through 19.1 innings.

Montero possesses raw talent that with continued development and experience can lead to a bright future.

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