LOS ANGELES – Rafael Montero is earning back some trust. The one-time top Mets prospect had seemingly blown through his opportunities when he was sent down earlier this season with an 8.25 ERA, but with injuries taking their toll once again on the pitching staff, he’s been given another chance.
And he has impressed – somewhat.
In his last two outings, both mop-up assignments, Montero has allowed one run over 6.2 innings pitched.
“I think when he first got to the big leagues, we used him because of everything we heard about him, what a strike thrower he was. Then he struggled. Again, I think when you struggle at this level you lose a little confidence in your stuff,” Mets manager Terry Collins said. “I don’t care what situations you use him in, if you see you can get guys out, it’s got to help your confidence and command. These last two outings, he’s faced two pretty good lineups and made pretty good pitches.
“The next thing is, we get him in a little tighter situation, it has to play,” Collins continued. “He’s got to do exactly the same thing. Go about your business, as when it’s 7-2, as it is 2-2. We’re hoping that takes place.”
Montero’s issue in previous big league stints is that he tries to nibble around the strike zone instead of attacking hitters. The last time he was sent down, Collins told him that he had to throw strikes – or else.
“We told him when he left here, if you don’t throw strikes, you are not coming back,” Collins said. “Well he went down and threw strikes. Now he’s up here and throwing strikes. I am very, very pleased with the way he is going about it and his approach here and what got him back here.”
Now, Montero has to show he can do it in tighter situations if he is going to stay.
Collins said he and pitching coach Dan Warthen met with Zack Wheeler after his disastrous two-inning start on Monday and are convinced he is healthy. But he was evasive when asked about what has caused the righthander to give up 15 earned runs over 3.2 innings in his last two starts.
“We have an idea,” Collins said.
He did seem to agree with Wheeler that the scouting reports are giving hitters the advantage. Wheeler has struggled to command his secondary pitches, so scouts are telling hitters to just sit on the fastball.
“We’ve got to think there are more guys going up there hunting his fastball,” Collins said. “As Zack said, he hasn’t had command of his breaking ball for a couple starts. So that’s something we talked about today. We’ve got a couple of ideas how to go about it. We gotta get those pitches back.”
After playing eight straight games, Wilmer Flores was out of the starting lineup Tuesday night against Dodgers’ right hander Brandon McCarthy.
“You can kinda see he’s dragging a little bit,” Collins said. “We are going to let him get off his feet for a little while. We’ve also got a lot of lefties coming up, we got to get him reenergized.”
Flores is hitting .289 with six homers and 20 RBI.
As expected, right-hander Tyler Pill was called up from Triple-A Las Vegas and will start for the Mets Wednesday against the Dodgers. It will be his third major league start. Pill, a California native, is 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA in his two previous starts. He also made two appearances out of the bullpen.
He is the best option in the Mets’ farm system. He was 5-1 with a 1.71 ERA in 10 starts for Triple-A Las Vegas and Double-A Binghamton. He began the year without permitting an earned run in his first 34.1 innings.