PHOENIX – Miguel Montero stood at his locker inside Chase Field’s visiting clubhouse late Friday night and broke it down for reporters.
The Cubs had just lost a 5-4 game to the Arizona Diamondbacks that lasted 13 innings but pivoted in the 10th, with closer Hector Rondon one strike away from ending it when Paul Goldschmidt blasted the game-tying, two-run homer.
“It was not really a good pitch,” Montero said afterward. “Especially (with) Goldy, you really have to make pitches. He’s a good hitter, a professional hitter, so you can’t let that guy beat you like that with a fastball middle-middle.
“Other than that, I would say the pitch before is the one that got us in trouble, the double (by) A.J. Pollock. I mean, you got him with two strikes and then you throw a breaking ball. It’s got to be a better pitch than that.
“It was middle-middle, too. (Pollock) just protected himself and he just threw the bat out there and he hit the ball down the line.”
Montero didn’t know English when he signed with the Diamondbacks as a teenager out of Venezuela. But by the end of his rookie-ball season in Missoula, Montana, he had picked up enough of the language to become a translator for teammates.
That didn’t mean Montero understood everything in 2002. But he wasn’t afraid of asking questions or making mistakes or somebody laughing at him. He’s also just naturally talkative.
As manager Joe Maddon said: “He’s not afraid to voice his opinion.”
So while Montero probably had a few ideas about the three-catcher experiment, he made sure to talk with Welington Castillo after this week’s trade with the Seattle Mariners and say good luck.
“Obviously, it was tough,” Montero said. “I tried to handle it as best as possible. I’m trying to be the best teammate as possible around here. But at the same time, as a player, you want to be (in your rhythm).
“You try to be as professional as you can. And when you’re in there, you’re trying to help them win, regardless. Right now, you got to adapt again.”
David Ross is still Jon Lester’s personal catcher. So when the Diamondbacks awkwardly flashed a “Welcome Back” message on Chase Field’s video board during Friday’s game, Montero had just finished catching warm-up pitches from Lester in between innings.
If Montero could write out the lineup, he would probably want to be in there 162 times this year. Baseball allowed him to have a dream house in nearby Paradise Valley, so he believes you should respect the game and play hard all the time.
Montero, who will turn 32 this summer, earned two All-Star selections with the Diamondbacks and became the only major-league catcher to account for 1,000-plus innings in each of the last four seasons.
The Cubs hope some extra rest will help prevent Montero from feeling the same second-half fade as last season (.596 .OPS, or 164 points lower than what he put up before the All-Star break).
“He’s not 21 years old anymore,” Maddon said. “(Don’t) run him into the ground, he’s going to play a lot better.”
Montero is hitting .280 with four homers and 15 RBI through 34 games. He’s getting on base around 40 percent of the time and putting up an .852 OPS.
“This is baseball,” Montero said. “It comes and goes sometimes. I’ve been feeling pretty good hitting-wise. There’s going to be that period of time where you’re going to stink.
“You just got to go through that and try to get out of it as soon as possible. But it’s part of the game. You have ups and downs.”
[NBC SPORTS SHOP: Get your Cubs gear right here]
Rondon is going through that now after his third blown save. The Cubs absorbed the three years and $40 million left on Montero’s contract because they wanted his presence.
Montero had already approached Rondon on Wednesday night at Petco Park, going to the mound to talk to the closer after he gave up a leadoff single in the ninth inning of an eventual 3-2 win over the San Diego Padres.
“What I’ve been seeing is when he gets runners on, the game speeds up (and gets) too fast for him,” Montero said. “So that’s what I was telling him: Hey, you know what, that’s when you got to slow the game down. That’s when you got to step out of the box, step off the mound and take your breather.
“Slow everything down. Because (his) heart rate – he was just flying right there. (He) really doesn’t want to let that run score. He just tries to do too much. And that’s when I say: Back it off. Try to make a good pitch rather than a nasty pitch.
“After the game, I told him: You need to slow yourself down, because when you don’t have anybody on base, you can see the quality of the pitches. When you got runners on base, you start flying open, you start missing – by far – the strike zone. So that’s when you got to slow down and just concentrate on making good, quality pitches.”
The Cubs hope the message sinks in this time.