DENVER — Miguel Montero is eventually going to rub some Cubs people the wrong way and say something to the Chicago media that he should probably just keep to himself.
But this is going to be fun to watch, a very opinionated catcher who absolutely loves to talk working with this pitching staff inside the Wrigley Field fishbowl.
“I’m a winner, man,” Montero said. “I hate to lose. And I hate to give up a hit. Even though it’s the pitcher’s ERA, it hurts me when they give up a run, because I take it personally.”
Montero sort of wore out his welcome with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He had been in that organization since 2001, signing as an amateur free agent out of Venezuela and developing into a two-time All-Star. He also needed a change of scenery, the chance to play for a contender, not a team just beginning the rebuild.
Montero is not going to be shy here. He stood in front of his locker on Sunday morning inside Coors Field’s visiting clubhouse and used Randy Johnson as an example. He remembered one game in particular while catching the future Hall of Famer in 2008.
“It was one batter,” Montero recalled. “First at-bat, he gave up a double, hanging slider, (right) down the line. Second at-bat, the same slider, and it’s a line drive off his foot.
“So the manager and the trainer go out to the mound and he’s looking at me: ‘We got to quit throwing sliders to that guy.’ And I look at him and I say: ‘No, you got to quit hanging it.’”
Montero also probably dropped an F-bomb on The Big Unit.
“I turn around and I walk back to the plate and I’m like: ‘What did I do?’” Montero said. “Well, two things can happen: Either I get sent down (to the minors) or I don’t catch anymore, because I was his personal guy.
“(But) he appreciated it. The next year, he was with the Giants, and I faced him in spring training. He threw me a fastball in and broke my bat. The media asked him: ‘Hey, did you say hi to Miggy?’ (Johnson goes): ‘No, he was too busy picking up his broken bat.’”
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The Cubs took on the three years and $40 million left on Montero’s contract because they thought he could get through to their pitchers and bring an edge to the clubhouse.
“Some guys need a pat on the back, some guys need to be yelled at,” pitcher Jake Arrieta said. “And I’m one of the guys that likes to be yelled at. He recognizes things in situations that I need to do differently, and it’s great to have a voice like that behind the plate.”
Pitcher Jason Hammel made a fist while describing Montero’s personality.
“When he wants you to throw a certain pitch,” Hammel said, “he’s like really emphatic about (it): ‘No, this is what you want to throw.’ Even if you shake, he wouldn’t take no (for an answer).
“It almost gives you that confidence to throw that pitch, even if you don’t want to. He has a good way of almost getting a little extra out of you when you want to kind of go in a different direction.”
Manager Joe Maddon compared Montero to another quote machine: Yogi Berra.
“Look at some photographs, man,” Maddon said. “Left-handed hitter with surprising power, not very tall. He’s probably more animated verbally than even Yogi was, in a sense. Yogi had his own Yogi-isms, and I guess there’s Miggy-isms. He’s got his own method of communication. (But) he absolutely loves to play baseball. He comes to play every day. His agenda is to win.”