Slider Separates Yankees' Montgomery





NEW YORK—Talent evaluators from other teams look at the swings hitters take against Mark Montgomery's slider and marvel.

Yankees scouts compare the 21-year-old righthander to current Yankees reliever David Robertson because of the way hitters don't get the bat on the ball. And while pitching prospects Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances have regressed due to injury and poor performance, Montgomery is moving up the organizational staircase.

While the 11th-round pick in the 2011 draft isn't likely to snag a spot in the big league bullpen by the end of spring training, it's not out of the question he could be in the mix at some point in the season if he continues to pitch like he has in two minor league seasons.

"His slider is a swing-and-miss pitch, and he has David Robertson-like (strikeout) numbers in the minor leagues," general manager Brian Cashman said of Robertson, the organization's No. 11 prospect. "His strikeouts to nine innings is remarkable.''

Montgomery, 22, reached Double-A Trenton last year. In 72 minor league games (all relief appearances) he has whiffed 150 in 93 innings for 14.6 strikeouts per nine innings. Opposing hitters have batted .185 and he has issued just 35 walks.

Even if Montgomery shines in his first major league camp, though, it likely won't be enough for him to stick. First, there aren't any bullpen openings despite Rafael Soriano's departure. Two, he has pitched just 15 games above Class A. Montgomery throws 92-94 mph, but it's the two-plane action on his slider that separates him.

"It starts down and then cuts across and you think it's a split-finger fastball because of the depth,'' assistant GM Billy Eppler said. "It's an explosive pitch.''

YANKEE DOODLES

• Among the 80-plus bodies the Yankees will open camp with are recent first-round picks, outfielder Slade Heathcott (2009) and shortstop Cito Culver (2010), who will be in their first big league camps. Also invited are catcher Gary Sanchez and outfielder Tyler Austin, both of whom were all stars in the low Class A South Atlantic League last year and were promoted to high Class A Tampa.

• The Yankees signed first baseman Dan Johnson to a minor league contract. Johnson, 33, played in 14 big league games last year with the White Sox but spent most of the year in Triple-A, where he hit .267/.388/.492.