Montgomery, Bulls shut down Gwinnett
Confidence in his curveball allowed Durham Bulls pitcher Mike Montgomery to give Gwinnett a new look as he made his season debut on Sunday.
Using the newest weapon in his arsenal, the left-hander struck out seven while tossing five scoreless innings as the Bulls topped the Braves 8-1 Sunday at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
“His curve was sharp,” Bulls manager Charlie Montoyo said. “He’s always had that change and fastball. Now he’s got his curve, he’s doing pretty good.”
Having gone 7-8 and pitching to a 4.72 earned run average while starting 19 games for Durham a year ago, Montgomery has designs on far better outcomes in his second stint in the Triple-A International League.
A tip from Tampa Bay Rays catcher Ryan Hanigan in spring training gave Montgomery better control of his curve, which he mixed with his changeup and fastball to stymie Gwinnett on Sunday.
“The one thing I noticed this spring is I feel comfortable throwing all of my pitches for strikes,” Montgomery said. “Last year there would be times when I just didn’t have a curveball at all. That’s hard throwing with two pitches. But I really this spring feel good mentally trusting what I have. I’m really becoming more of a pitcher where I can throw strikes anytime with any pitch on any count to any batter.”
From watching film and talking with Hanigan, Montgomery adjusted his mechanics and the result is a better curveball.
“I just kind of shortened it up in the delivery,” Montgomery said. “I did that and all of the sudden I was putting it where I wanted it. I just took that and ran with it. Now I have the confidence to throw it at any time in the count.”
Durham (2-2) lost two of the first three games to Gwinnett, Atlanta’s Triple-A affiliate, and allowed 22 runs along the way.
But in the series finale on Sunday, Wilson Betemit’s two-run home run in the first inning gave the Bulls the lead for good.
Armed with that lead and the confidence in his pitches, Montgomery allowed just three hits over his five innings of work. He threw 90 pitches, which is all the Rays organization wants starting pitchers to throw this early in the season.
Montgomery worked around an error and his own two walks in the fourth inning.
With Durham up 3-0 in the fifth inning, the Braves put two on and with one out after a double and a walk. But Montgomery struck out Derrick Mitchell and Joey Terdoslavich to finish his day with no runs allowed.
Brad Boxberger followed Montgomery with two hitless, scoreless innings of his own and Jerry Sands’ RBI double in the seventh inning pushed the Bulls lead to 4-0.
Gwinnett mounted a rally in the eighth inning against Durham left-hander Adam Liberatore.
Mitchell doubled and, one out later, Ernesto Mejia walked. After Mark Hamilton sent a fly ball deep to centerfield for the second out, Montoyo called on right-hander Kirby Yates.
Phil Gosselin greeted Yates with an RBI single to right field. But, facing the tying run, Yates retired pinch-hitter Tommy La Stella on a groundball to first base to end the inning.
The Bulls turned the game into a rout in their eighth inning, scoring four runs by stringing together four consecutive hits.
Vince Belnome, who was 2-for-4 with two RBIs Sunday, ripped an RBI double to right-centerfield and scored on Mikie Mahtook’s single. Ali Solis had an RBI single in the inning and Kevin Kiermaier made it 8-1 with an RBI sacrifice fly.
NOTES – The Bulls welcome another IL South Division foe, the Charlotte Knights, to the DBAP for a four-game series beginning tonight at 7:05 p.m. Former Major League hurler Erik Bedard gets the start for Durham with fellow lefty Charlie Lessman starting for Charlotte…The Bulls drew a crowd of 6,988 for Sunday’s game, which started four hours earlier than the normal 5:05 p.m. starting time they will use for most Sunday games this season.
Durham Bulls (2-2) 8, Gwinnett Braves (2-2) 1
April 6, 2014
Team ER: off Gwinnett 8, off Durham 1.
BB: off Atkins 3 (Sands, Figueroa, C, Betemit), Lamm 2 (Figueroa, C, Betemit), Severino (Kiermaier), Vasquez (Betemit), off Montgomery, M 3 (Mejia, E, Gosselin, Cunningham, T), Boxberger (Hamilton, M), Liberatore (Mejia, E).
SO: by Atkins 3 (Belnome, Olmedo, Olmedo), Lamm (Fontenot), Severino (Olmedo), Vasquez 2 (Olmedo, Figueroa, C), by Montgomery, M 7 (Mejia, E, Hamilton, M, Greene, Lerud, Mitchell, Mitchell, Terdoslavich), Boxberger 4 (Mejia, E, Gosselin, Greene, Lerud), Liberatore (Terdoslavich).
Pitches-strikes: Atkins 78-50, Lamm 25-13, Severino 20-11, Vasquez 33-18, Montgomery, M 90-52, Boxberger 41-26, Liberatore 21-11, Yates 29-18.
Umpires: HP: Ben May. 1B: Toby Basner. 3B: Jon Saphire.
Official Scorer: Brent Belvin.
Weather: 53 degrees, partly cloudy.
Wind: 11 mph, In from CF.
Venue: Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
April 6, 2014