Jesus Montero Plays Savior

Two homers for Montero help bail out Freddy Garcia

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Montero doesn't need to walk on water to help the Yankees.

    We've been hearing a lot about Jesus Montero over the last two years.

    Stories about his hitting prowess came from all corners of the baseball world, taking on an almost fairy tale quality because he was swinging his bat in far away kingdoms like Scranton instead of the real world of the Bronx.

    He was the next big thing long enough to almost be a part of trades for a slew of superstars, yet he remained a mysterious figure because the Yankees simply wouldn't bring him to the big leagues.

    While many mouths watered about Montero and what his bat would mean to the Yankees, there was also a healthy bit of skepticism about the player whose prodigious talents didn't get him to the Bronx even as Jorge Posada's career cratered and Alex Rodriguez's power was eliminated from the lineup for most of the last two months. Montero remained a glittering prospect, but the long history of players who built up their legend in the minor leagues before falling flat -- Bam Bam Meulens, anyone? -- lingered in the back of the mind.

    Those flops aren't feeling quite as relevant at this hour. Montero technically arrived in Boston last Thursday when rosters expanded to 40 men, but he officailly arrived on Monday afternoon in the Bronx.

    Montero broke an 8-8 tie in the fifth inning with his first big league home run and then doubled down with a two-run shot in the seventh to help the Yankees overcome a miserable start by Freddy Garcia and secure their fifth straight victory by an 11-10 count. That moved them 2.5 games ahead of the Red Sox, who lost 1-0 in Toronto and also saw Josh Beckett leave the game early with an ankle injury.

    Both Montero home runs lived up to the advance billing. Smooth easy swings that sent balls rocketing out to right, the kind of opposite field power we aren't used to seeing quite so much now that steroids aren't the big league version of Wheaties anymore.

    Montero is the first 21-year-old to homer twice in one of his first five games since Manny Ramirez, a player that he's been compared to before Monday's exploits and one that will likely come up a bit more if Montero keeps flashing that swing. You'll want to ignore the rest of the list of neophytes to pull off that trick to keep fanning the flames, but you'll have plenty of company on that front. 

    The best thing about Montero's homers is that they allow us to avoid an umpteenth discussion of the Yankees pitching staff. Garcia has built up enough of a bank account to get a mulligan for a day like this, so his performance merely serves as a reminder of how wrong things can go when your starters doesn't show up with his best stuff.

    That's a scary thought in a short series. Less scary than seeing Beckett leave a September game with an injury, to be sure, but unsettling enough to dominate the discussion on plenty of days this season. 

    So praise Jesus for making it possible to focus on other, happier things. He won't be the pitching staff's savior, but perhaps his arrival will make it easier to accept that one of them isn't arriving before the postseason. 

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.