At the start or the finish, Mike Montgomery is comfortable pitching at any spot for the Cubs
CHICAGO – If he’s forever remembered as a closer in the Windy City, that won’t be a bad thing.
After all, Mike Montgomery sealed one of the greatest moments in Chicago sports history on November 2, 2016.
His save – the first of his career – capped a wild Game 7 victory over the Indians at Progressive Field that ended the Cubs’ 108-year championship drought. His pitch and following celebration with teammates will live on long after his career is done.
If anything it was the perfect example of what Montgomery was then and continues to be with the team: The ultimate utility pitcher. Plug him in the long middle relief role or even the closer spot, the pitcher doesn’t seemed phased and tends to succeed more often than not.
More recently, it’s been as a starter thanks to the injury to Jon Lester. Montgomery has quietly stepped into his place and in the last two starts has allowed just a single run in 13 innings of work, including seven strong ones on Monday in a 6-1 Cubs win over the Pirates at Wrigley Field.
It was the 10th time in 37 appearances this season that Montgomery has been in a starters role and the victory puts him at 4-3 on the season as a starter. His season ERA is now down to 3.29 in a campaign where he also has three saves as well.
Montgomery went six innings a didn't allow a run in a Cubs win over the Reds in his last outing on August 23rd when he started filling in for the injured Lester. On Monday, he didn't allow a run till he surrendering a homer to Jordy Mercer to leadoff the 8th which prompted Joe Maddon to pull him from the game after 87 pitches.
As he walked off the mound, Cubs fans greeted Montgomery with a deserved standing ovation.
"You get a lot of nerves throughout the day, knowing that you're going to start, but I just try to focus on having fun out there," said Montgomery of the effort and his time as a starter. "I've had a few different roles this year. Being asked to go out there and start, you've got to look at it and say 'Hey, I get to start for the Chicago Cubs and it's going to be a fun day.'"
Maybe the attitude is because Montgomery has been so used to it the past few seasons. In Seattle back in 2015, the pitcher began his MLB career with 16 starts without a relief appearance. That changed completely in 2016 as the Mariners put Montgomery in the bullpen for 30 appearances with just a pair of starts before his trade to the Cubs.
Once in Chicago, Montgomery got five starts but still came out of the bullpen 12 times and performed well enough to earn a spot on the playoff roster. Joe Maddon used him in 11 of the 17 playoff games en route to a World Series championship as the lefty pitched 14 1/3 innings with a 3.14 ERA and one important save.
While the majority of his time in 2017 has been spent coming out of the bullpen, Maddon believes that his current role for the Cubs is the one that will be ahead for Montgomery as his career continues.
"It's always nice to have him in the bullpen, no question," said Maddon of the pitcher. "But I think this is his future - to be a really legitimate left-handed starter."
He's doing pretty well in the present, too.