HOUSTON — Mike Montgomery’s first career victory Saturday came in his eighth professional season and after a winding road through three organizations for a pitcher once viewed as one of the game’s top prospects.
“It means a lot,” he said. “I spent a while in the minor leagues. Everything happens for a reason. There’s a lot of good baseball (in me). I’ve been through a lot and thrown a lot of innings. I found some different things.
“So I feel better off because of it.”
Montgomery, 25, limited Houston to one run in six innings Saturday and got the victory when the bullpen closed out an 8-1 victory. (VIDEO LINK) He pitched well in two previous starts but got a no-decision and a loss.
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“I always believed in myself,” he said, “and I’m really grateful to Seattle for believing in me and giving me the opportunity. You just make the most of it. I believe in what I do.
“Now, it’s just a matter of going out there and proving it every fifth game.”
Montgomery is 1-1 with a 1.89 ERA and is just the second pitcher in franchise history to work at least six innings in his first three career starts while allowing two or fewer runs.
The other was Bob Stoddard in 1981.
The Mariners acquired Montgomery from Tampa Bay in a March 31 trade for right-hander Erasmo Ramirez. Montgomery opened the season at Triple-A Tacoma but got promoted June 2 due to an injury to James Paxton.
Montgomery was the 35th overall selection in the 2008 draft by Kansas City and was ranked by Baseball America among the game’s top-40 prospects from 2010-12.
Often, though, his development lagged behind his performance. He was 10-23 with a 5.69 ERA in 2011-12 at Double-A and Triple-A before the Royals included him in a December 2012 trade to Tampa Bay.
Montgomery was 17-13 with a 4.49 ERA in 2013-14 at Triple-A Durham but couldn’t crack the big-league rotation. The Rays shifted him this spring to the bullpen but, after the trade, the Mariners returned him to starting.
At Tacoma, Montgomery was 4-3 with a 3.74 ERA in nine starts before getting his big-league chance.
“I feel I’ve learned a lot,” he said. “I developed different pitches and different arm angles. It’s just shaping your game to figure out what kind of pitcher you are. I think that’s important.
“When you understand it, you can just trust what you do.”
PENDING ROSTER MOVE
The Mariners optioned reliever Danny Farquhar to Triple-A Tacoma after Sunday’s 13-0 loss to Houston and will fill the roster vacancy through a corresponding move prior to Monday’s game in San Francisco.
Tellingly, neither Jones nor Gutierrez started Sunday for the Rainiers against Albuquerque.
Jones, 26, is batting .264 in 48 games at Tacoma with a .338 on-base percentage and a .362 slugging percentage. But he’s been hot lately: a .333/.446/.500 slash in his last 15 games.
Gutierrez, 32, is a nine-year veteran attempting a comeback after missing all of last season because of gastrointestinal issues. He is batting .331 in 41 games for the Rainiers with six homers and 25 RBIs.
The Mariners recalled Farquhar prior to Saturday’s game in order to get a fresh arm after extending their bullpen for 13 1/3 innings over the two previous days.
Farquhar pitched Saturday and Sunday, allowing two runs in 2 2/3 innings.
“It sucks, obviously, going up and down,” he said, “but I’ve been in way worse situations. You’ve just got to be mentally tough and deal with what happens.”
IWAKUMA IN SIM GAME
Rehabbing right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma is scheduled to throwing 45 pitches over three simulated innings at 11:30 a.m. Monday against a collection of Short-A Everett players at Safeco Field.
The AquaSox closed their Arizona camp on Sunday and open their 76-game schedule Thursday against Eugene (Cubs) at Everett Memorial Stadium.
Iwakuma suffered a strained back muscle (right latissimus dorsi) on April 21 in a day-after throwing session following his start against Houston at Safeco Field.
Barring any setbacks, Iwakuma is scheduled to start a minor-league rehab assignment Saturday. Tentative plans call for him to make two or three rehab starts before rejoining the big-league rotation.
Iwakuma, 34, was 38-20 with a 3.07 ERA over the last three seasons but just 0-1 and 6.61 this season in three starts before his injury.
*Left-hander James Paxton has advanced to the playing-catch stage of his recovery from a strained left middle finger. He suffered the injury in a May 28 start against Cleveland.
Robinson Cano, even in a disappointing season, has 16 doubles and continues his climb up the all-time charts.
Cano has 428 career doubles, which ranks fifth in history by a player in his first 11 seasons. He could challenge for the top spot if he closes the season with a more-typical Cano performance.
Albert Pujols (2001-11) and Todd Helton (1997-2007) are the all-time leaders with 455 doubles in their first 11 seasons. Joe Medwick (1926-36) ranks third at 453, followed by Paul Waner (1926-36) with 450.
It was five years ago Monday — July 15, 2010 — that for the first time in 68 years a game included players on opposing sides with at least 5,000 career at-bats and .330 career averages.
It took place at Busch Stadium in St. Louis when the Mariners with Ichiro Suzuki (.333) played the Cardinals with Albert Pujols (.332). St. Louis won 4-2.
The last time a game featured two such players was Sept. 7, 1942 with two of the doubles machines cited above: future Hall of Famers Joe Medwick (.330) playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers and Paul Waner (.335) playing for the Boston Braves.
Mark Trumbo was a late scratch because of back spasms. Dustin Ackley replaced Trumbo in left field…Nelson Cruz remains tied for the American League lead with 18 homers, but it’s been 56 at-bats since he went deep. Two Angels, Albert Pujols and Mike Trout, also have 18. Cruz’s last homer was a three-run blast on May 27 at Tampa Bay that broke a scoreless tie in the ninth inning…Logan Morrison’s 18-game hitting streak at Minute Maid Park ended when he went hitless in four at-bats.
The Mariners open a stretch of four games against that Giants at 7:15 p.m. Monday at AT&T Park in San Francisco. Right-hander Taijuan Walker (3-6, 5.40) will face Giants right-hander Tim Hudson (4-5, 4.60).
The game can be seen on Roots Sports Northwest and heard on 710 ESPN.
The two teams play two games in San Francisco before shifting to Safeco Field for games on Wednesday and Thursday.