Jordan Montgomery shines in his delayed season debut with the Diamondbacks

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Jordan Montgomery's debut with the Arizona Diamondbacks went better than his tune-up starts in Triple-A.

The 31-year-old left-hander cruised through six innings against the San Francisco Giants, allowing one run and four hits with three strikeouts on 78 pitches on Friday night.

Montgomery was the last marquee free agent to come off the board, waiting until days before the season started to sign a one-year, $25 million deal with the Diamondbacks. He had two tune-up starts in Triple-A Reno before pitching in his first big league game this season, allowing nine runs in 7 2/3 innings.

Friday's outing was far better.

“I expect that every game," Montgomery said of his season debut. “I think sometimes you get in your own head in minor league games, and it’s not about executing anymore. You're aiming instead of ripping, and stuff gets bad when you start aiming. So I just needed to get in my element, and be out there and compete.”

Montgomery was on a pitch count of 80 to 85 pitches against the Giants, and manager Torey Lovullo kept a close eye on him. The only blemish on Montgomery's otherwise stellar outing was a solo home run by Jorge Soler in the fourth inning.

“Everybody, including me, talked about some of the struggles that people that don’t have a full spring training could potentially walk through,” Lovullo said. “He answered a lot of questions about his readiness and preparedness.”

Montgomery signed with the Diamondbacks a week after Blake Snell, the other big remaining free agent on the market, inked a two-year, $62 million contract with the Giants.

Coincidentally, the two faced eachother on Friday, with Montgomery making his debut and Snell – the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner – still seeking his first win after two poor outings. Both were represented by agent Scott Boras, who Montgomery fired following the lengthy free agency process.

“There are some similarities in what they’re both going through,” Giants manager Bob Melvin said.

Lovullo also acknowledged that not being able to pitch in spring training would probably affect both pitchers early in the season. He said that Snell, who was 0-2 with a 12.86 ERA in two starts entering Friday, “hasn’t been great.”

For Montgomery, he couldn’t face the same level of competition while his peers were getting feedback from big league hitters during spring training. He also wasn’t being evaluated by coaches had he been on a roster earlier.

“It’s hard to simulate a response from hitters when you don’t have hitters,” Lovullo said before the game.

Montgomery, in his eighth season, was coming off a 2023 campaign in which he set career highs in wins, innings and strikeouts. He had a stellar postseason with the Texas Rangers, who acquired him in a midseason trade. Montgomery went 3-1 with a 2.90 ERA in six playoff appearances — including five starts — that culminated in a World Series win.

“He's a huge addition to our team,” shortstop Blaze Alexander said. “We’re really, really excited — excited to have him and I’m excited to play defense behind him and just watch him.”

Montgomery is 38-34 with a 3.68 ERA in his career, spending his first six seasons with the New York Yankees. He had hopes of signing a long-term deal, but wound up on a short-term contract with the team that he helped beat in the World Series last year.

“I know that he’s been aching to be with us,” Lovullo said. “All the things that he had to do to get here and probably the nervous energy about it being his first start on April 19th, he managed it as good as you possibly could have hoped.”

He was part of a big offseason haul for the Diamondbacks, who also signed Eduardo Rodriguez, Joc Pederson and Randal Grichuk, and traded for Eugenio Suarez.

After the game, Montgomery was serenaded in the clubhouse to loud cheers.

“I’m glad I can make a good first impression," Montgomery said. "Being around these guys even for three days, they’re incredible. They made me feel welcome.”