Jesus Montero was leaning against the rail of the Yankees dugout, looking out toward right field. His name is written above his first big league locker, and it’s written into his first big league lineup, an in about an hour, the Yankees top hitting prospect will make his debut.
“I felt like I was dreaming,” Montero said. “Like somebody punched me in the face or something like that. It’s the first time, thank God, it’s amazing for me. This is a great night tonight. I hope I do everything good. I just want to help them to win. I’m here to have fun and to help them win.”
Joe Girardi said there was no hesitation putting him in the lineup. The Yankees have noticed how well Montero’s been hitting lately — especially against lefties — and they wanted to get him in there right away. Pregame, Montero caught Freddy Garcia’s bullpen, and the Yankees want him to keep doing things like that on the side to get acclimated to the pitching staff. Girardi’s still not sure Montero will start a game at catcher, but Girardi was also impressed by video of Montero catching in Triple-A this season.
“It’s just all the things that a catcher has to do,” Girardi said. “All of the things that are involved: Framing, blocking ball, throwing, pitching selection. Those are all things that, he just needed to catch more. He’s young. I mean, he’s really, really young. You don’t see 21-year-old catchers playing every day in the big leagues. You just don’t do it. It was just needing reps, and I thought he improved a lot.”
Girardi left no doubt that, if Montero hits, he could make the postseason roster. This is not a guy called up to get his feet wet or add some depth. Montero is playing for a roster spot, playing for a regular role in this lineup.
“I learned (in spring training) that I have to be patient,” Montero said. “I have to be calm all the time, and I have to slow down everything. It’s the same baseball for me. I’ve got to take it like that, like it’s going to be the same baseball in Triple-A, spring training, Double-A, whatever. Now I’m in the big leagues and I want to help. I want to come to home plate today, have some fun and hit the ball well.”
Major League debut, at Fenway Park, in a Yankees-Red Sox game, in the middle of a heated pennant race. How does a kid like Montero not put pressure on himself, or feel overwhelmed?
“Just go out and be the guy that you are,” Girardi said of his advice to his newest addition. “Don’t try to do too much, just be the guy that you are, and enjoy your first day. This only comes around once. Take in what’s going on around you and enjoy it.”
• Will Montero DH against right-handers? “That’s something we will decide on a daily basis,” Girardi said.
• The Yankees still have not decided whether to have CC Sabathia start Sunday or take an extra day of rest after his 128-pitch outing on Tuesday. “We’re going to see how CC feels, and we’ll go from there,” Girardi said.
• Raul Valdes is here as a second lefty, but it sounds like he’s pretty low on the depth chart. Girardi said Boone Logan is still clearly the top left-handed option in the pen. “I might even go to a righty before I go to Raul,” Girardi said. “Let’s just see when we get him here and he gets in a situation before we form too much of an opinion.” Reminds me of the Royce Ring call-up last season.
• When the clubhouse was open, the September call-ups in the room were Montero, Scott Proctor, Chris Dickerson and Brandon Laird. The Yankees are expecting Lance Pendleton and Valdes to be here before first pitch.
• If you missed it, the Yankees opened 40-man spots by designating Ryan Pope for assignment and moving Justin Maxwell to the 60-day disabled list. Technically, Maxwell had to be called up to the big leagues before he could be moved to the 60-day.
• Montero said most of his family made the trip to see his big league debut in person.
Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Marco Scutaro SS
Adrian Gonzalez 1B
Dustin Pedroia 2B
David Ortiz DH
Carl Crawford LF
Jed Lowrie 3B
Josh Reddick RF
Jarrod Saltalamacchia C
Associated Press photos