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Frankie Montas Unlikely for Yankees Postseason Rotation

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When the Yankees acquired Frankie Montas on Aug. 1, a day before the trading deadline, the franchise and its fans celebrated.

The Reds had already dealt Luis Castillo to the Mariners — he has since signed a five-year extension with Seattle — so Montas, considered by many to be the second-best starter in the marketplace due to his work with the Oakland Athletics, became a welcomed consolation prize.

“I do know he’s going to be a giant addition to the staff,” Manager Aaron Boone said after the Yankees shipped a minor league infielder, Cooper Bowman, and the young pitchers Ken Waldichuk, Luis Medina and JP Sears to Oakland.

But Montas’s Yankees profession immediately went sideways. He struggled over his first eight starts for the team before landing on the 15-day injured list with a shoulder injury that had been bothering him when he was in Oakland. And now, with the Yankees a win away from clinching the American League East, there’s no guarantee that Montas, 29, will be counted on to make it back into the team’s rotation, let alone be the frontline starter within the postseason that some had imagined.

“It’s probably getting to some extent where it’s going to be tough as like a starting, built-up option,” Boone said of Montas on Sunday. “That may be a challenge, but I feel there’s a likelihood that he can have a job and impact us.”

Boone alluded to finding alternative routes to make use of Montas, who has recorded a 6.35 E.R.A. over his first 39⅔ innings for Latest York. That would mean coming out of the bullpen or being a part of a piggyback setup where two pitchers split up the innings typically given to a starter.

Montas last pitched on Sept. 16, allowing 4 earned runs to the Milwaukee Brewers over three and a 3rd innings. An M.R.I. was taken, and Montas was placed on the injured list on Sept. 20 (retroactive to Sept. 17) with right shoulder inflammation. He received a cortisone shot, and the Yankees had planned to shut him down from throwing for at the very least 10 days.

On Sunday, Montas said that he felt “higher” and that he hoped to start out “playing catch very soon.” Boone said Monday that he expected Montas to start out throwing this week. After being placed on the I.L., Montas had expressed optimism about contributing to the Yankees’ postseason efforts.

“I still need to return and check out to assist the team within the playoffs,” he told reporters. “You realize, each time I can.”

But with lower than two weeks left within the regular season, Montas won’t find a way to tackle a starter’s full workload. Even when he could, it shouldn’t be necessarily clear the Yankees would have a spot for him.

Latest York definitely didn’t imagine this when the team traded for the right-hander. Montas had a 3.18 E.R.A. over 19 starts for the Athletics this season, and had a 3.37 mark with Oakland in 2021. But a shoulder injury in July, which Boone had called a “hiccup,” could have been a much bigger issue than anyone realized. Montas was still rebuilding arm strength on the time of the trade, and his latest I.L. stint led him to concede that he “probably rushed” his summer return.

Montas, nonetheless, blamed his stuff — not his shoulder — for his problems in pinstripes.

“I’ve had games where I haven’t really been commanding my fastball or my secondary pitches,” Montas said after his last start. “But I feel like a bit of little bit of luck, it’s probably not on my side, but I keep going on the market and attempting to do my best.”

Fortunately for the Yankees, Gerrit Cole, Nestor Cortes, Luis Severino and Jameson Taillon offer the team 4 solid starters for the postseason, though Severino continues to be build up after his own lengthy I.L. stint. He pitched Monday in Toronto, allowing two earned runs over 4 innings in a 3-2, 10-inning loss.

Even with that defeat, the Yankees are just one win away from locking up a division title and a first-round bye within the playoffs, with several players having recently returned from the I.L. so as to add some needed depth. It’s an enviable position, but Montas shouldn’t be the team’s only query mark.

With nine games remaining within the regular season, Aaron Hicks’s status is uncertain at best. The outfielder has enjoyed a relative stretch of success, going 7 for 18 with two home runs over his last six games. But that may’t make up for a season of struggles, which prompted the Yankees to trade for center fielder Harrison Bader.

With Andrew Benintendi still working his way back from a broken hamate bone in his hand, the Yankees’ preferred left fielder appears to be the rookie Oswaldo Cabrera. And if Matt Carpenter and DJ LeMahieu are in a position to return from injuries, that will limit Hicks’s opportunities even further.

After which there’s the Yankees’ bullpen, which has loads of talented arms but no clear-cut closer. The prospect of Aroldis Chapman, the team’s longtime finisher, getting a postseason roster spot has been a subject of conversation after The Latest York Post reported the organization had considered designating the left-handed reliever for task.

Chapman, an impending free agent, has been unreliable, recording a 4.36 E.R.A. over 33 innings. He lost his closing job to Clay Holmes earlier this season, though Holmes, an All-Star, has since had his own rough stretches. The fluidity has led to the Yankees using 11 different relievers to record saves this season.

On Sunday, Boone was asked, point blank, if he could trust Chapman in high-leverage situations.

“Well, we’ll see,” Boone said. “Right away, I’m using him more in low- and medium-leverage situations.

“Physically, I feel prefer it’s still there. The stuff is there. He’s shown flashes of it throughout the season and even within the second half of the season. So we’ve got to proceed to make essentially the most out of each opportunity, after which we’ll make that decision.”

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