Sunday, I mixed backfield bullpens followed by a “Major League” game filled with minor leaguers. The highlights of the game were two innings of Rafael Montero pitching and a Wilmer Flores homer and a slick defensive play.
We will have footage of Noah Syndergaard’s first bullpen of the spring, and as a Met and some comments from him along in a bit. For now, lets focus on Montero, who retired all six Michigan Wolverines he faced, using a pop-up, two groundouts to the right side, two flyballs and a strikeout.
He threw 20 pitches, 16 for strikes, a rate of 80%. Montero locates well, especially for a pitcher who has just conquered advanced-A, but pitchers just do not throw that many strikes over the course of a season. The Major League average is 62% strikes, and Cliff Lee led all MLB pitchers in strike percentage in 2012 at 70.5%, the only pitcher to surpass 70%. R.A. Dickey (69%) was second, while Jordan Zimmermann (68%), Kyle Lohse (67%) and Bronson Arroyo (67%) rounded out the top five.
Of the seven fastballs Montero threw in his first inning of work, three were clocked by the St. Lucie stadium gun at 92 and four at 94 mph. By his second inning of work, the majority of his fastballs were 92, with a trio of 93s. That’s about right, he works, after the first inning, around 92 mph.
He used his breaking stuff sparingly – after all, it was his first spring training outing and he was facing the University of Michigan. I labeled two offerings as “sliders” in the video below. The second one is clearly a slider. The sharp break represents an improvement over a year ago. In rewatching now, I wonder if the first was not a changeup.
It’s early and all, but the Rafael Montero who threw on February 24, 2013 looks like a modestly improved version of the pitcher I saw in 2012. More specifically, he looks like a guy who can pitch in a big league rotation as a #3 if everything works out perfectly, or further back if they don’t.