The Yankees don’t have a Game 4 starter for the postseason. As of right now, they don’t have a Game 3 starter either, as he’s on the 60-day injured list, having last pitched on July 13.
The Yankees being in this spot again, in which they will likely use a bullpen game in the postseason is irresponsible, but completely unsurprising. As long as Brian Cashman is in charge, not having a complete postseason rotation will be commonplace.
The Yankees would have been in the same spot a year ago, if their postseason had lasted longer than nine innings. They were in the same spot two years ago when tried their nonsensical trickery with Deivi Garcia and J.A. Happ in Game 2 of the ALDS and then reluctantly started Jordan Montgomery in Game 4. Three years ago, they were forced to use Chad Green as an opener in Game 6 of the ALCS, going with a bullpen game with the bullpen on fumes, and they were eliminated that night. Even when the Yankees won the World Series in 2009, they did so because of the unprecedented amount of scheduled days off throughout the postseason, which allowed them to get by only using CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte. You may have forgotten (but I didn’t) that if they needed a fourth starter, it was going to be Chad Gaudin.
After all these years in which Yankees fans have watched postseason starts go to Shawn Chacon, Jaret Wright, Ivan Nova, Burnett (in 2011 after having been removed from the rotation) and Freddy Garcia, the Yankees are in a familiar spot once again.
A month ago, I wrote Yankees Could Use Mulligan on Frankie Montas comparing him to Jeff Weaver, Javier Vazquez, Michael Pineda, Nathan Eovaldi, Sonny Gray and James Paxton. All Montas has done since I wrore that is look more and more like all of the other young, controllable starters Cashman has traded for, all of which have failed with the Yankees.
The Yankees traded for Frankie Montas, thinking he would could be one of their four postseason starters, possibly even as high as their Game 2 starter. They traded for Montas despite his time on the injured list this season with a shoulder issue and despite his nearly 6 ERA outside of Oakland. His time with the Yankees has been a disaster, pitching to a 6.35 ERA in eight starts, providing zero quality starts and allowing 66 baserunners in 39 2/3 innings.
Because Montas came from the A’s as a (somewhat) young, controllable starter and because he has failed so miserably with the Yankees, he is constantly being compared to Gray, which is an insult to Gray. For as bad as Gray was in 2018 with the Yankees, he pitched to a 3.72 ERA in 11 starts for them in 2017 and provided five shutout innings in his Game 4 start in the ALCS against the Astros.
The one thing Gray and Montas do have in common is their delusional self evaluations after starts. Back in 2018, after allowing seven total hits, three extra-base hits, walking three, hitting a batter and walking in a run in 3 2/3 innings, Gray said, “I thought I commanded my two-seam well. I think it was my four-seam that every time I threw it, it kind of leaked back over the middle of the plate. Slider was good. Yeah, I think the stuff was good.”
On Friday, Montas was staked to a 5-0 lead before he took the mound for a second time. He was unable to get through four innings, recording just 10 outs and needing 79 pitches to do so, as he allowed four runs on four hits and four walks. It was another putrid performance from a pitcher who has only provided outings ranging from painful to unbearable. But like Gray, Montas is delusional about his struggles.
“To be honest, I’m not really worried about it,” Montas said after Friday’s game. “I know what I can do and know what I’m capable of doing.”
And that was the moment Montas lost me and likely many other Yankees fans.
This season, the Yankees have had Aaron Hicks say, “I’m a guy that’s in the lineup, cool. If I’m not, it is what it is.” They have had Joey Gallo openly blame everyone other than himself for not working out in New York. They have had their manager in Aaron Boone say, “If we don’t turn this thing around …” while the team was on the verge of blowing a 15 1/2-game lead. And now they have their big-name deadline rotation piece telling the world he’s “not worried” that he can’t seem to pitch five innings without allowing at least four runs.
If Cashman turned off his phone, went on vacation or went off the grid during the week of the trade deadline and returned the minute after the deadline passed, the Yankees would be a better team than they are today. They would still have Jordan Montgomery. That alone would make them a better team.
The Yankees moved on from Montgomery because they didn’t think he would start a playoff game for them. They held on to Jameson Taillon, however, even though it’s obvious they don’t want him starting a postseason game (and who can blame them). But now it’s looking more likely by the day that either Taillon or an opener followed by a parade of relievers will be the Yankees’ fourth postseason starter this October, if their postseason lasts four games. Not only is performance reason enough to make other plans than having Montas pitch in October, his health now might prevent him from pitching in October.
After Friday’s start, Montas was going to undergo an MRI for shoulder inflammation. Montas told Boone he thought it was a minor thing, but this is the same guy who told the media he isn’t worried about his performance as a Yankee, so it’s hard to trust anything he says.
Montas missed nearly three weeks in July with a shoulder issue, but that didn’t stop the Yankees from making him their guy. The Yankees didn’t want to part with Oswald Peraza to acquire a better starting pitching option, and yet they have Peraza riding the bench, so that Isiah Kiner-Falefa can continue to be an everyday player for a team with supposed championship aspirations.
Andrew Benintendi may not play another game for the Yankees. Harrison Bader has never played a game for the Yankees. Scott Effross hasn’t pitched in four weeks. Montas has been dreadful. If the Yankees getting Lou Trivino (who has been solid) and moving Joey Gallo is all they end up getting out of this season’s trade deadline it will go down as a disaster. As of now that’s what it has been.
My book The Next Yankees Era: My Transition from the Core Four to the Baby Bombers is now available as an ebook!