Royals seek series win to close out season’s first half
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Mike Montgomery used to dream of pitching at Kauffman Stadium. He’ll finally get his chance Sunday, albeit for the Seattle Mariners.
The 2008 first-round draft pick by the Royals, Montgomery will make his first start of the season. He’s looking forward to facing some of his buddies, although it’s been a while since he was in the same organization.
"It’s definitely exciting, but at the same time it’s just pitching," Montgomery said. "It’s exciting to face these guys. I’m ready. There’s a little more added excitement, but it’s not going to be too crazy."
Montgomery was traded to Tampa Bay before the 2013 season in the deal that brought Wade Davis and James Shields to Kansas City.
He made his major league debut last year for Seattle.
"It’s been long enough, and I was with Tampa for a couple of years," Montgomery said. "They’ve got a good team over there, so I have to be ready to go."
Montgomery (2-3, 2.15 ERA) might be downplaying it a little, but his skipper says that facing a former employer can give a player some extra juice.
"It’s probably cool for Mike," Seattle manager Scott Servais said. "He was drafted by the Royals and he was a top prospect. Just like a lot of guys, sometimes it’s when you put on your next uniform that it comes together and clicks.
"You always have the anxiety of going back and pitching against your friends and former teammates. But he’s been away long enough that I hope that’s gone away."
Servais was asked, then, if he remembered his first series in Houston after he was traded to the Cubs.
"Absolutely," he said. "I remember the first (time) I played there. I faced Mike Hampton (his current bullpen coach with the Mariners)."
And? "I did OK, I hit a homer." Servais’ three-run home run turned a 3-2 deficit into a 5-3 lead.
Kansas City center fielder Jarrod Dyson was Montgomery’s roommate in their time together in Triple-A Omaha in the Royals’ minor league system. Dyson is eager to face his old friend.
"He hit me the last time I faced him," Dyson said. "I’m going to kill him. No, he’s a great friend of mine. We always mess with each other about baseball. He’s a real competitor and he’s got good stuff. He loves to go out there and compete. I just love to see him up here in the big leagues."
Dyson said it’s not hard to face a close friend and try to beat him.
"To me it’s fun, because the whole time we lived together I told him that if I ever faced him, I would take him up top," Dyson said. "He’d always tell me he was going to strike me out on three pitches. That’s competition.
"If I get in the box against him, I’ll try to get a base hit against him so I can talk some trash with him. If he strikes me out, he’s going to do the same with me."
Dyson probably won’t face Montgomery, as he generally faces only right-handed pitchers and Montgomery is left-handed.
Montgomery recorded his first career shutout against Kansas City on June 23, 2015. He scattered five hits and struck out 10.
"That was last year," Montgomery said. "It was great that it happened, but this is a new year. You have to game-plan without worrying about what happened last year, good or bad."
While Montgomery will finally be fulfilling a dream, Dillon Gee (3-2, 4.05 ERA) will be trying to prove that he can fill the fifth-starter spot for the Royals.
Gee is 2-2 with a 6.05 ERA as a starter. He will get the first crack at assuming the role previously filled by Chris Young. Young is 2-8 with a 6.90 ERA this season. He has only two quality starts out of 13 and is 0-3 with an 8.37 ERA in his last six starts.