Before Jesus Montero had taken one swing with the Yankees, general manager Brian Cashman had already discussed a scenario in which Montero could snatch the designated hitter’s job in the postseason. The Yankees didn’t promote Montero on Sept. 1 because they simply wanted to give him a look. They did it because they realized Montero could be their best option at DH in October and beyond.
After Montero hammered two homers in an 11-10 win over the Orioles on Monday, it became more evident that the potential plan to give Montero at-bats in the postseason was progressing nicely. While manager Joe Girardi said he didn’t want to get “too giddy” after one game, the Yankees are giddy about Montero and what he could provide.
“He’s a hitter,” Cashman said. “He can hit lefties and righties. It could be something for 2011 or 2012. We’ll see.”
The Yankees have always described Montero as a special hitter, a hitter with superb bat speed, an ability to wait on pitches before he unleashes his swing and power to all fields. Since Montero waits on pitches so effectively, he gives himself more time to recognize pitches and produces excellent power to the opposite field. Both of Montero’s homers off Jim Johnson came on fastballs that Montero drove to right center. It was a rare hitting display, a display of smarts and strength.
“It’s unbelievable,” Montero said. “I like to hit that way because that’s the way I’ve been hitting all my life. I’m just thinking that way all the time. And look what happens.”
Look what happened and think about what else can happen with Montero. A player who didn’t secure his first at-bat with the Yankees until Sept. 1, who didn’t notch his first hit until Sept. 3 and who didn’t bash his first homer until Sept. 5 could easily evolve into a pivotal role in October for a team that leads the Major Leagues in runs. As formidable as the Yankee lineup has been, Cashman was blunt about wanting more production from the DH slot.
“There’s nobody crushing for us in the DH mode,” Cashman said. “It’s up for grabs.”
The Yankees could have recalled Montero earlier this season, but they hesitated because of Jorge Posada. After the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline, the Yankees had internal conversations about summoning Montero. But, if the Yankees promoted Montero, Posada, the proud veteran who is in the final year of his contract, would have likely been the player who was sacrificed. Instead of tampering with Posada, the Yankees waited until the rosters expanded on Sept. 1. Since Montero’s arrival, Posada has had one at-bat.
Now that Montero is in the Majors, the Yankees will give him the chance to win the DH job. When Girardi spoke about Montero’s second homer off Johnson, he gushed. Johnson threw a sinking fastball that was several inches off the plate and was just below the knee. Montero recognized the pitch and clubbed it the opposite way. If Montero could do that against a right-hander like Johnson, the Yankees are anxious to see what he can do against other righties.
“We’ve always said this kid has a lot of power, all over the field,” Girardi said. “And he can drive the ball to right. The first one, it looked like he got a ball up a little. The second one is pretty special.”
Cashman said he wouldn’t hesitate to use Montero, a 21-year-old rookie who would have only one month of Major League experience, as the DH in the postseason if he keeps proving himself. The GM added that the Yankees will make a decision that puts “the best team on the field.” Right now, Montero is making a powerful statement about being part of that team.
Follow Jack Curry on Twitter: @JackCurryYES