ARLINGTON, Texas — Jordan Montgomery insists there are no hard feelings.
Of course, he is about to start Game 2 of the World Series on Saturday for the Rangers, so the Yankees trading him away last summer has worked out just fine on his end.
But Montgomery has spent this month proving that he could, in fact, be an impact starter in the postseason after the Yankees dealt him last year for Harrison Bader in part because they did not see the left-hander being in their playoff rotation.
“You can’t do it unless you get the opportunity,” Montgomery said on Thursday at Globe Life Field. “I think I’ve always thrown in big games my entire life, from high school to college to the minor leagues. … So I just needed an opportunity.”
It just never came with the Yankees. Montgomery only started one playoff game during his six-year tenure in The Bronx: Game 4 of the 2020 ALDS, when he threw four innings of one-run ball against the Rays to help extend the series.
As a rookie in 2017, Montgomery was on the ALDS and ALCS rosters but did not pitch.
He missed the 2018 playoffs while rehabbing Tommy John surgery and was left off the 2019 playoff rosters after only making it back in time to throw four innings that September.
The Yankees’ playoff run in 2021 lasted just one game and then by the 2022 trade deadline, they expected their postseason rotation to feature Gerrit Cole, Luis Severino, Frankie Montas and Nestor Cortes.
In their eyes, that made Montgomery expendable to acquire Bader.
“I’ve got no bad blood,” Montgomery said. “The Yankees drafted me, gave me [six] good years of being in the big leagues. I’ve got a lot of really good relationships still over there. Media can try to stir up as much bad blood, but I got nothing but respect for them.”
“It’s understandable why I didn’t [get that opportunity with the Yankees],” he later added. “But I’m happy to have it now.”
The 30-year-old Montgomery has thrived under the postseason spotlight this month, posting a 2.16 ERA across 25 innings (four starts and one key relief appearance in Game 7 of the ALCS).
His October — along with posting a 3.20 ERA in 32 starts this season split between the Cardinals and Rangers — has him set up nicely to cash in this offseason as a free agent.
“Jordan has come face to face [with the fact] that he’s a pretty darn good pitcher,” said Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux, who worked with Montgomery in the same role last year with the Cardinals. “No stage is too big for him because they’re all equal. He treats everything the same. He treats every inning the same, every at-bat the same. That’s what I like about Jordan.”
Maddux said the even-keeled Montgomery has “gotten much better on game preparation” since arriving in St. Louis from the Yankees.
Montgomery himself pointed to his stuff getting better, his delivery being cleaner, throwing with more conviction, executing more and being stronger and heavier.
“For me, he’s got a great feel for how to change speeds right now,” Max Scherzer said. “He knows how to pitch. Kind of throw all the metrics out the window, it goes back to the basics of he knows how to locate, he knows how to change speeds — stuff that we used to talk about, he excels at. I feel like that’s why we’re seeing him pitch his best games right now in the postseason.”
Montgomery said “a ton” of Yankees have reached out to him during his playoff run, including Gerrit Cole, Aaron Judge and Aaron Boone, among others.
He still has plenty of fans inside the Yankees clubhouse, which could be part of why Montgomery insists he does not feel any resentment toward his old team giving up on him.
“It’s been great, just to kind of show what I’m worth, what I can do and what I’m capable of,” Montgomery said. “I had a career [3.94 ERA] with the Yankees, I wasn’t a bad pitcher. But I’ve kind of matured, gotten better every year and I’m having the best year so far.”