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Mike Montgomery moving to the bullpen

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Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Rays pitcher Mike Montgomery, acquired as a supplementary piece in the James Shields trade, is transitioning to the bullpen this season. With the Rays short of left handed depth and Jake McGee taking a seat while he heals from elbow surgery, this may also be his quickest path the to the majors.

After seven years as a starter, this is Montgomery's first go at relief. Dating back to 2011, his numbers don't show any kind of direct split in his ability to get batters out, but a much improved performance at Triple-A Durham between April and July show he just might be ready. The wheels fell off in August, but according to some napkin math, it looks like he held a 3.72 ERA and 3.20 FIP with an 18.8% strikeout rate and 7.3% walk rate through July. As a southpaw and a pitcher with BAbip issues, a move to Tropicana Field could do him well.

For his part, Mike Montgomery tells Port Charlotte reporter Josh Vitale he's up for the transition.

"I'm willing and open to do any kind of role this team would need me to fill," Montgomery said. "There's going to be adjustments you have to make doing that, but I told them, ‘Hey, I feel good as a starter and I feel like I could transition to a bullpen role if needed, as well.' I feel pretty confident about doing that."

[...]

"Obviously you want to be in the big leagues, and any way you can get there is what you want to do. So having the ability to start or relieve would be more valuable, and as a player, I want to make myself the most valuable that I can."

Kevin Cash has taken note of the lefty as well, mentioning him as someone whose caught his eye early in camp, with a comp to Andrew Miller as a lefty with leverage and deception to his game:

"You've got three outs or two innings to work with, and it shortens your thought process instead of thinking about getting to that sixth inning all the time," said Cash, who also remarked on how well Montgomery threw in his live batting practice session Sunday. "They end up being better pitchers in the long run."

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Kevin Cash gave his introductory speech to the Rays on Saturday, something the players described as powerful and to the point, clocking in at a bit more than six minutes, so a decidedly different feel than the last manager.

Cash admitted he was nervous for the big moment, with a funny quip on his month long anticipation for the traditional kick-off speech:

There was a lot of practice. Anyone that was driving next to me the last thirty days are probably thinking, 'What's wrong with that guy? He's sitting there talking to himself.'

You can watch that comment and much more in the video below. Toward the end, Cash mentions he's only enacted one rule since taking over the skipper position: asking everyone to wear their batting practice jerseys for the first week of camp.

As a more ridiculous example, Cash said it would be, "So I don't call Jake Elmore 'Logan Forsythe.'"

Based on comments in the video, I might assert Nick Franklin is still the favorite for the open middle-infield role, but Tim Beckham is making a case for himself.

Links

- Marc Topkin has a big write up on Bobby Wilson, the Tampa native with a strong chance to be the back up catcher come opening day, as well as a moving story on relief prospect Andrew Bellatti, who only has a major league career because the widow of a victim in a car accident he caused didn't press charges.

- Also in the Times, writer Charlie Frago provides a profile on Rays president Brian Auld. Among several interesting items in the piece are how the Rays are the only major league team currently planning to file in support of the SCOTUS brief on same-sex marriage, how the Rays have raised their minimum wage to $10 an hour, and that the Touch Tank was three times over budget last season.

James Shields already setting an example in Padres camp.

- Baseball is reportedly resurgent in Cuba.