Keider Montero to make his MLB debut in Wednesday’s doubleheader, per report

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With Tuesday’s game rescheduled into a Wednesday straight doubleheader, the Detroit Tigers appear ready to promoted right-handed pitcher Keider Montero for his first look at the major leagues. The question is still whether he’ll start Game 2, moving Jack Flaherty back a day, or simply be available in the bullpen as depth.

Tarik Skubal vs. Jared Jones is a really good matchup in Game 1. Pittsburgh Pirates rookie ace, Paul Skenes, is set to pitch Game 2, while the Tigers had Flaherty originally scheduled to pitch that game. It’s currently TBD. Montero appears to have gotten the call, as he posted the news on his social media. It just isn’t officially confirmed as of yet.

Even today, little is written about Montero nationally. It’s honestly a little bizarre. He struck out nearly 30 percent of hitters last year at Double-A Erie and has continued to keep a high rate in his first full season at Triple-A Toledo, all while limiting hard contact in the air pretty well. The issue that continues to vex him is the walks, and the tight automated strike zone at Triple-A combined with Montero’s inconsistency has made it hard to make progress on that front. He’s not a top 100 pitching prospect. He’s just in that next tier where a bump in command would make him a solid major league starting pitcher.

Either way, I’d say he’s earned a look. And since he was added to the 40-man roster last fall, it was always likely he’d be one of the first to get a call-up this year. The question is how the Tigers want to develop him. He has all the tools to be a really good starting pitcher except the crucial one, consistent command. So it’ll be interesting to see if he gets the start or whether this is more of a bullpen audition, considering the Tigers needs in that department.

The stuff remains really good and at times outstanding when his command is dialed in. Montero comfortably sits 94-95 mph with a good riding fastball and good angle to the top of the zone, and tops out around 98 mph. He’s held his fastball velocity well deep into outings the past two years, and he’s physically stronger with a little more control and balance in his delivery. His two best secondary weapons are a pair of breaking balls that both touch 3000 rpms, though the slider is now usually more in the 2700-2800 rpm realm. In his A-ball years, Montero struggled to differentiate them, and that’s a been a big part of his progress over the past year.

The mid-80’s slider is now more of a sweeper, while the 80 mph curveball is a power hammer with only a little tilt. He’s pretty aggressive with them and will work both sides of the plate at times with either. Montero developed a split change last year that is often good for him, but still pretty inconsistent. When he has that pitch going he is particularly tough to deal with.

Montero has been really durable despite a modest 6’1” frame. His progress stalled a bit in A-ball, but Tigers development chief Ryan Garko instituted a program to get yearly development plans for the native Spanish speakers professionally translated, and Montero has made some comments that it helped him better understand the relationships between the developmental steps they wanted and the final goal. Shocking that having the plan in your own language might be a good idea. Anyway, that prompted a big year of growth for him in 2023 as he conquered the Double-A level and reached Toledo by August.

Whether Montero ends up starting Game 2 or is just available out of the bullpen, this is coming a little early for the 23-year-old as he still needs to refine his command. The ability to self-correct mid-inning is going to be tested in this one if he does take the bump for his first major league start. But it’s a good time to reward him for all the progress and to give him some time with the Tigers pitching coaches. With few off days upcoming, it also gives the rest of the rotation an extra day off if he ends up starting the game.

Montero already faced Paul Skenes once this season, back on April 12 as the Toledo Mud Hens and the Indianapolis Indians met up. Montero held his own in that one, two-hitting Indy over four scoreless innings, but did walk three against six punchouts. Skenes went just 3 13 innings, but also blanked the Hens while striking out eight to one walk.

Let’s just say it’s a bit of a lopsided matchup at this point, but Montero has the stuff to carve up major league hitters if he’s on. He’s just a little too prone to losing his release point and digging a hole for himself during an outing. Though rarely hit hard in Triple-A, major league hitters are less generous in letting pitchers off the hook with traffic on the bases. So as with most debuts, It’s more a question of how well he handles the nerves and executes his pitches. Here’s a look at that Montero/Skenes matchup. Best of luck to our guy today. Hope he gets the start.

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