Mike Montgomery was ready to pack his bags for Japan.

That's where he thought his career path was headed. 

Fast forward eight months and there was Montgomery on the mound for the final out of the season, ending a 108-year championship drought with the Cubs.

What a whirlwind year for the 27-year-old left-hander.

"It's been unbelievable," Montgomery said before he and the Cubs won a wild Game 7 in Cleveland. "Coming into the year, honestly, I thought I might be playing baseball in Japan. To be here, in the World Series, it kinda feels satisfying.A lot of hard work is paying off.

"It's just kinda how the game works sometimes — if you work hard enough, long enough and committ yourself to your craft, good things will happen eventually."

The Cubs acquired Montgomery almost two weeks before the trade deadline, sending prized hitting prospect Dan Vogelbach to the Seattle Mariners in return. 

As he approached his second season with the Mariners last winter, Montgomery knew he had to figure out some way to stick in the big leagues.

His only experience in the majors was 90 innings in 2015 at the back end of the Mariners rotation.

But entering 2016, Montgomery wasn't sure where he would fit in, especially because he had no more options left, forcing the Mariners to make a decision to either keep him on the big-league roster or risk losing him to another organization.

"Japan came to me and offered a good contract," Montgomery said. "I know they got good baseball over there and it could've been something - I know a lot of pitchers have done it to help boost their careers.

 

"I think what it came down to is just where I'm at. I really kinda bet on myself. I came into camp and said, 'I'm gonna bet on myself. I know what I can do.' 

"I knew what I had learned. I got a taste of the big leagues [in 2015] and I knew where I was at as a pitcher and how I've progressed. At that point, I was just gonna take my chances and it's worked out pretty well."

[SHOP: Buy your Cubs World Series champions gear here]

Montgomery is a former top prospect, ranking as high as No. 19 in the game by Baseball America prior to the 2011 season.

The Kansas City Royals made him the 36th overall pick in 2008 out of William S. Hart High School in southern California.

Since then, he's had a rocky road. Montgomery was traded from the Royals to the Tampa Bay Rays in December 2012 in the deal that sent Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi to the Rays with Wade Davis and James Shields headed to Kansas City.

In March 2015, just before the regular season started, the Rays dealt Montgomery to the Mariners for Erasmo Ramirez.

Fifteen months later, Montgomery wound up on the Cubs and emerged as one of Joe Maddon's most trusted pitchers down the stretch.

Only Aroldis Chapman pitched in more games this postseason than Montgomery as the young lefty posted a 3.14 ERA and 1.47 WHIP in 14.1 playoff innings.

Montgomery picked up his first career save in Game 7 of the World Series and went 1-1 with a pair of holds overall in October/November. He even got a hit at the plate against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Championship Series.

Montgomery still has five years left of team control and the Cubs hope he can be a big part of their starting rotation moving forward.

Theo Epstein's front office cleared some room for Montgomery in the rotation by declining Jason Hammel's 2017 option Sunday afternoon.

"I've learned a lot since I've been here," Montgomery said. "Not just from players, but the coaching staff and everybody has taught me alot.

"It's a cool feeling and I'm excited [about the future]."