DETROIT -- When he pitched in two All-Star contests earlier this summer, Frankie Montas was more than willing to show off his 101-mph fastball when he could.
But though he only arrived in the majors three weeks ago, the White Sox rookie has already begun to learn the value of a well located four-seamer.
Working with reduced velocity (it’s still 95-97 mph) Montas has impressed the coaching staff in five relief appearances. Primarily a starter in the minors, Montas has handled the transition well with a 1.13 ERA in eight innings with 10 strikeouts and four walks.
“I feel like the key is I’m not trying to do too much with my fastball,” Montas said. “Just throwing it and trying to hit the spot and trying to throw strikes so I can get outs.”
Since he was called up on Sept. 1, Montas, whom baseballamerica.com has tabbed the No. 91 prospect in baseball, has thrown 61.5 percent of his fastballs for strikes, according to brooksbaseball.net.
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In a scoreless inning Sunday, Montas averaged 97 mph with his fastball. His average was down a tad as four of his nine fastballs were balls, but he paired it with a nasty slider en route to two strikeouts and a weak groundout.
When he pitched in the Futures Game in July, teammates prodded Montas to throw a triple-digit fastball and he did. But he also allowed three runs and four hits in 2/3 innings. Montas said he also lit up the radar gun upon request at the Double-A All-Star Game, though he only allowed a hit and recorded an out in that one.
“What good is 101 if it’s nowhere near the glove?” pitching coach Don Cooper said. “I’d rather 93 to the glove and location than 95, 96 or 97 nowhere near it. He’s exhibiting strikes with his fastball and some strikes with his breaking ball. We haven’t got to see his changeup all that much, but that’s another work in progress.
“He’s now on his path and right now with X amount of games left he is doing everything that a guy should do to try to show everybody his ability.He’s making the best use of the opportunity he’s been given.”
Similar to the way they’ve slowly broken Trayce Thompson in, the White Sox have used Montas in friendly situations so far to build his confidence. He has only appeared in relief but the White Sox believe he can be a major league starter. They hope to get Montas one start before the season is out, perhaps as early as Wednesday, though those plans are up in the air because of Monday’s doubleheader.
White Sox manager Robin Ventura likes how Montas uses his fastball-changeup combination.
“He looks like (a starter),” Ventura said. “Every time he goes out there, it gets a little better. There’s more confidence with him going out there throwing different pitches.
“There are some guys who throw it 98 or 99, but they get hit a lot. I think there’s some deception in the way he throws. And the offspeed stuff that he has, it will hide that.”
In a very small sample size, the opposition has a .214/.313/.250 slash line against Montas in 32 plate appearances. He’d love to get a chance to start and thinks he could go relatively deep if he did. Because he’s been in the bullpen for three weeks, it more likely would be a 3-4 inning stint for Montas, Ventura said. Either way, Montas plans to enjoy the final two weeks of the season.
Perhaps even more important, he knows what he needs to do.
“Right now everything I’m trying to do is command my fastball, try to hit the spot and not try to be perfect, just try to hit the spot and throw strikes,” Montas said.