ST. LUCIE, FL - Signed by the New York Mets as a non-drafted free agent in 2011, Rafael Montero has…
Montero On The Rise
St. Lucie catcher Blake Forsythe explained what it's like being behind the plate with the twenty-one year old Montero on the mound.
"Montero is one of my favorite to catch," Forsythe admitted. "Every time I've caught him it has been fun.
"He has great tempo, he just gets the ball and goes. He throws strikes and gets outs. That's key, especially at this level."
Montero is a student of the game and has a good head on his shoulders. If a pitch isn't working for him in a game, he's not afraid to go back to it because he knows that it's important from a developmental standpoint. Montero understands what it takes to get to the next level.
"He gets ahead and can throw all of his pitches for strikes," Forsythe added. "He has the confidence to throw any pitch in any count."
St. Lucie manager Ryan Ellis expressed enthusiasm about Montero's talent.
"He has a really good arm and he's a smart kid," Ellis said. "That's a good combination to have."
Montero seems to be putting everything together. He was absolutely lights out in his latest efforts on the mound for St. Lucie.
On July 17th, the 170 pound right-hander whiffed ten batters, allowing one earned run on six hits through six solid innings. That would not be the only time he reached double digit strikeouts.
On July 31st, Montero delivered an electrifying performance, striking out a career high fourteen opposing hitters. He allowed two earned runs on five hits through six strong innings of work.
Montero's finest body of work came in his last appearance of the season.
On the humid night of August 7th, Montero made a statement by tossing a special no-hit performance through 7 & 2/3 innings. He struck out five Palm Beach Cardinals and walked three. Montero retired fifteen consecutive batters at one point, his fastball touching 94 mph on the gun.
Montero was removed from the game after his pitch count reached 110 and showed signs of fatigue. Ellis explained why he had to relieve Montero from the game.
"The plan for him from the beginning of the year was 120 innings. We're careful with all of our guys, you know?"
"He's around forty innings or so past where he was last year and that's usually protocol to protect their arms. He's no different," clarified Ellis.
When asked about the no-hit display, Montero couldn't help but smile as he spoke.
"I was throwing a lot of fastballs, but my slider was working very well," Montero said. "That was the pitch that was getting most of the batters out."
Montero also said he knew what was going on but that he wasn't thinking about it too much. His goal was to just keep throwing strikes.
"I just tried to keep throwing to the glove," he said. "Of course I wanted to keep pitching, but they had to take me out."
With that performance, Montero won his third consecutive game and earned himself Florida State League Pitcher of the Week accolades. He posted a 2.13 ERA and held batters to a .196 average while pitching for St. Lucie. The dominant Dominican struck out 56 batters over 50 & 2/3 innings through his eight starts in high-A ball.
Overall for the 2012 season Montero compiled a 2.36 ERA, walked 19, and struck out 110 batters while holding opposing hitters to just a .212 average.
Montero learned a lot from his experience this year. He has improved control of each pitch in his repertoire, most specifically his changeup, making him more comfortable on the hill.
"I developed better command of my changeup and I think I will have more success next year with control over that pitch," Montero said assuredly.
In addition to his skill on the mound, Montero's personality gleams and oozes confidence. He expects to continue getting better and foresees success next season.
"I trust in God and I know God gave me this talent to use," he said. "I'm going to do this and more."
Full of potential, Montero is a gifted pitcher with a live arm. He has been nothing short of stellar.
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