October 5, 2022


ST. LOUIS – Slipping slowly but still holding a slight edge for the best record in the American League, the Yankees got into action last Monday before Major League Baseball’s trade deadline. They sent two top-10 prospects and two other minor leaguers to the Oakland Athletics in exchange for pitcher Lou Trivino and starting pitcher Frankie Montas.

Although Trivino, a right-hander, has underperformed this season by his career standards, he bolsters a bullpen that has been undermined by injuries. He has already made four appearances for the Yankees. But Montas, the centerpiece of the trade and the kind of relief other contending teams were looking for, had yet to make his Yankees debut.

Due to a death in his family, Montas did not join the Yankees until Saturday night, meeting them in St. Louis. He met with catcher Jose Trevino at the team hotel. And a day later, he took the mound as a Yankee for the first time. But even he couldn’t stop the team’s worst slide for 2022.

Montas had his worst start of the season, allowing six runs in three innings on Sunday. A 12-9 loss to the surging Cardinals snapped the Yankees’ first three-game hitting streak of the season and extended a season-worst five-game losing streak.

As of July 8, the Yankees were on pace (118) to break an MLB record for wins (116) in a 162-game regular season. Since then they have gone 9-16. The Yankees (70-39) still hold a sizable lead in their division, the AL East, but cracks have appeared and have lost ground to the Houston Astros (70-40) for the AL’s top seed in the postseason.

Against the Cardinals, who are in first place in the National League Central, Montas’ command was inconsistent. In the second inning, with the Yankees leading 4-1, he walked the first two batters. Dylan Carlson and Paul Goldschmidt each drove in a run — with another walk in between — to bring the Cardinals within a run. Nolan Arenado then smashed a go-ahead, three-run home run that earned him a shutout.

Right fielder Aaron Judge tied the score with a two-run double in the fifth inning, but the Yankees bullpen squandered it in the bottom half of the frame allowing three runs.

Perhaps one reason for Montas’ struggles has been his erratic schedule of late. Montas, a right-hander, returned July 21 after missing nearly three weeks with inflammation in a dislocated shoulder. He started again for Oakland on July 26, hitting 78 pitches, then was traded to New York. But then came a death in the family that delayed Montas’ arrival and affected his workload, according to Yankees manager Aaron Boone, who was still building from the injury anyway.

While Montas was on the bereavement list, Sam Briendt, the team’s pitching director, flew to Arizona to meet him and oversee his pitching, including a bullpen session, said Matt Blake, the team’s pitching coach.

“We didn’t want him to be on his own for four or five days and then come to start, so Sam went over, kind of looked at him, talked about what the expectations were and gave us a shot of him doing his routine and everything.” Blake said.

Boone added: “We’re having about as good a week as you can get given the conditions.”

Before the trade deadline, the Yankees added All-Star outfielder Andrew Benintendi, a lefty contact who helps further balance the lineup and address the absence of Giancarlo Stanton (left Achilles tendinitis) and the struggles of Aaron Hicks (. 226 batting average). right-handed reliever Scott Efross, who completes hits by throwing a sidearm; Trivino? and Montas.

Montas, 29, bolsters a rotation that has struggled (Domingo German has a 5.09 ERA in four starts since returning from a shoulder injury) and will be without Luis Severino (right latissimus dorsi strain) until mid-September.

But the Yankees also removed from their rotation, surprisingly sending 29-year-old left-hander Jordan Montgomery — who was drafted by the Yankees in 2014, had pitched solidly (3.69 ERA) and was under team control the following year — to the Cardinals for 2021 Gold Glove-winning center fielder Harrison Bader, who is on the disabled list until perhaps September. Even though Bader is hitting .256 this season and has been out since late June with plantar fasciitis, he can help shore up the Yankees’ weakest defensive outfield position.

(Calling it emotional and strange to face his former teammates so suddenly, Montgomery threw five scoreless innings against the Yankees in a 1-0 win Saturday.)

Although the baseball industry viewed Montas as an upgrade over Montgomery, General Manager Brian Cashman recently said he did not acquire Montas to send Montgomery down the line. He said the trades for Montas, who will be a free agent after the 2023 season, and the Montgomery trade for Bader were made with the goal of “how we can fly higher to our best ability when it counts most in October and what gives us the most quality options.”

Blake said Montas was similar to Severino, “a bulldog on the mound who comes at you with power.” He later added: “For us, he’s a mid-to-upper 90s right-handed pitcher with a complete arsenal who can get righties and lefties out. He fits right in at the top of our rotation and gives us another guy that we feel confident going into a postseason.”

Montas, who originally left his native Dominican Republic with the Boston Red Sox, found his feet with the Athletics after being traded multiple times. In six years in Oakland, Montas was 35-30 with a 3.70 ERA in nearly 538 innings, was suspended 80 games in 2019 for a performance-enhancing drug and threw more than 180 innings in a season just once (in 2021, with a 3.37 ERA ).

Before joining the Yankees, Montas had a 3.18 ERA in 104⅔ innings this season. His first impression didn’t go well, but as they plan for October, the Yankees will need Montas to get in shape.



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