Miguel Montero checked multiple boxes for the Cubs when they acquired him this offseason.
Left-handed bat? Check. On-base skills? Check. Veteran presence? Check. Defensive presence? Double check.
Three days after Jake Arrieta complimented Montero for getting on him during his dominant start in a win against the Cardinals, Jason Hammel was heaping praise on Montero’s take-charge attitude and catching ability.
“I like a catcher who, when he wants you to throw a certain pitch, he’s really emphatic about it, like, ‘This is what you want to throw,’ even if you shake [him off],” Hammel said. “He wouldn’t take ‘no.’ On the slider in the first inning to [Troy Tulowitzki] and the heater to [Nick] Hundley on the last pitch of the game, it’s like, ‘Do this.'”
Montero’s ability to convince pitchers to do what he wants them to do — and Cubs pitchers trusting him are two integral parts of what could be a successful relationship between battery mates. This is the kind of leadership the Cubs front office probably envisioned when they traded a pair of pitching prospects for Montero after losing a bidding war for Russell Martin.
This represents just the latest example of Montero gaining the favor of his pitchers.
Back in 2008, Montero caught 20 of Randy Johnson’s 31 starts. In March 2009, Johnson said of a 25-year-old Montero: “I like him. That’s why he caught me. He’s a good catcher. He’s eager to learn. He listened to me. I don’t know everything. I don’t claim that. But he wanted to learn.”
Daniel Hudson, a 16-game winner for the Diamondbacks in 2011, told the Tribune in February that Cubs pitchers would love his former teammate. Former teammates Addison Reed and Josh Collmenter sung Montero’s praises in an ESPN Chicago piece during spring training, too.
The track record isn’t spotless, though, as Montero seemed to have chemistry issues with former Diamondbacks top prospect Trevor Bauer during Bauer’s rookie season. Bauer wanted to call his own games, while Montero wanted to guide the up-and-comer during the early stages of his career.
Despite their differences in opinion, Montero seemed to want to take some initiative in straightening out Bauer. As it turns out, Bauer wasn’t long for Arizona as he was traded to Cleveland before the 2013 season.
It probably won’t always be a perfect relationship between Montero and Cubs pitchers. But as of now, it’s off to a good start and hopefully continues to grow moving forward.