AP NEWS
ADVERTISEMENT

Miguel Montero gets fresh start with Nationals

March 5, 2018 GMT

JUPITER, FLA. Nationals manager Dave Martinez loves catcher Miguel Montero, who caught starting pitcher Tanner Roarks Monday afternoon outing against the St. Louis Cardinals.

He loves him even though he had a front-row seat to the clubhouse chaos in Chicago last June, when the Nationals stole seven bases four by Trea Turner with Montero behind the plate for the Cubs.

After the game, the catcher placed the blame squarely on the shoulders of Cubs starting pitcher Jake Arrieta.

Thats the reason they were running left and right today, because they (Arrieta) were slow to the plate, Montero said. Simple as that. Its a shame its my fault because I didnt throw anyone out.

ADVERTISEMENT

It really sucked, because the stolen bases go on me, Montero said. But when you really look at it, the pitcher doesnt give me any time, so yeah, Miggy cant throw anyone out, but my pitchers dont hold anyone on.

That scouting report earned Montero, 34, a one-way ticket out of Chicago a few hours later, as he was promptly released.

After 12 major league seasons with 126 home runs, 550 RBI, a career .257 average and 1,073 games behind the plate, signed a minor league contract in December with Washington. He was asked about what went wrong in Chicago when he met with reporters at the start of spring training.

You cant live in the past, so youve got to move on, Montero said. I just live today and Ill figure it out tomorrow.

Still, it ought to be interesting if and when Arrieta Scott Boras prize free agent pitcher arrives in the Nationals clubhouse.

Martinez is glad to have Montero in the clubhouse and on the field behind the plate.

He loves to compete, Martinez said. Thats who he is. He speaks his mind, and Im OK with that. He is a great teammate, he really is, regardless of what happened. So far the guys love him.

Hes doing really well, Martinez said. Hes a veteran guy. What I like is that he is very intuitive. He calls games well, he handles pitcher well. Knowing Miguel, hes a big game player, he loves big moments.

In Game 1 of the 2016 National League Championship Series, Montero pinch-hit a grand slam homer to break a 3-3 tie and lead the Cubs to an 8-4 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers. He entered Game 7 of the World Series that year as a defensive replacement for catcher Dave Ross in the 10th inning, and singled to left, driving in one run to extend Chicagos lead to 8-6 in a game they would win 8-7 to clinch the series.

ADVERTISEMENT

Montero is making this team. The Venezuelan native was signed by Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo when Rizzo was director of scouting with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2001. Montero knows Nationals ace Max Scherzer from their days together with the Diamondbacks. It was Montero who caught Scherzers first bullpen session in spring training.

Montero has caught all three of Roark’s starts this spring. “I like the way he (Montero) calls a game,” Roark said after four scoreless innings, allowing just one hit, in a 2-1 Washington loss to St. Louis. “He’s been around as long time. He knows a lot of these guys. It’s great when he calls a pitch, and that’s exactly the pitch you were thinking of. It makes you that more confident.”

“So far it’s going well,” Montero said. “I thought this could be a good place. It’s a good team with a legitimate chance to win it all. It’s a nonguaranteed (contract), so it’s up to me. I just have to do my job.”

The Nationals feel good about their depth at catcher. So far, they have been impressed with the resurgence of Matt Wieters, who, after suffering a severe arm cut last winter, came into camp this season after a full offseason of workouts and about 15 pounds lighter. This spring, Wieters is 4 for 8 with three RBI.

The plan is to keep him (Wieters) healthy, Martinez said. I dont know what that number is going to be. He is in great shape. He looks good. The plan is to keep him as healthy as possible going into October.

October. It would seem like you would want a guy like Miguel Montero on your roster in October as well.

This would appear to leave 24-year-old catching prospect Pedro Severino out of the mix, perhaps destined to spend the season with Class AAA Syracuse. Its possible, though, they may carry three catchers early in the season, when there are a number of off days and no need for five starting pitchers.

Hes (Severino) is another guy who is doing well, Martinez said. We have some pretty good options at catcher. Hes just got to keep learning how to call games, keep honing in on his catcher skills. He is very athletic, and I like that.

Thom Loverro hosts his weekly podcast Cigars Curveballs Wednesdays available on iTunes, Google Play and the reVolver podcast network.

ADVERTISEMENT