PHILADELPHIA — Rafael Montero has pitched the most games for the best bullpen in the postseason this year, having appeared in eight for the Astros heading into Monday’s Game 3 of the World Series against the Phillies.
It’s a long way from the injury-plagued disappointment Montero was for most of his tenure with the Mets.
Montero signed with the Mets as an international free agent from the Dominican Republic in 2011 and was ranked as the organization’s fifth-best prospect by Baseball America in 2013, despite not having signed until he was 20 — very late for an international prospect.
The right-hander made his MLB debut with the Mets on May 14, 2014 against the Yankees at Citi Field, but never found consistent success in Queens, battling injuries and ineffectiveness — while shuttling between the majors and the minors.
There were some highlights, including one run in six innings, with 10 strikeouts, against Arizona in his third career start and another solid outing versus the Cubs later that season.
And in 2017, Montero pitched 8 ¹/₃ scoreless innings in Cincinnati, one of the high points in a season that saw Montero pitch in 34 games before Tommy John surgery kept him out of 2018.
He performed well in small doses with Texas in 2019 and 2020 before another down season in Seattle in 2021 before he was included as an afterthought in a trade to the Astros in July ’21.
But Montero was effective before a lat injury ended his season with Houston and went on to have his most successful season in the majors, compiling a WHIP of 1.024 in 68 ¹/₃ innings over 71 games.
Now 32, he’s allowed just four hits and four walks over eight innings during the playoffs.
“This offseason was kind of a question mark of what he would come in [as] in spring training,” Houston pitching coach Josh Miller said in a Zoom call on Sunday. “We had expectations, but we didn’t really know what he would come in as. And he came into spring and was pretty good. And as the season went on, he just grew into a very valuable, trusted member of the bullpen.”
Montero finished with a career-high 14 saves.
“He throws strikes,” Houston manager Dusty Baker said. “He’s still learning. He added a couple other pitches. [He’s] very calm in his demeanor. … He never gets shaken.”
Montero was acquired by the Astros as part of a package that also brought Kendall Graveman from Seattle. Montero has been designated for assignment before the trade.
Graveman was effective for Houston after the trade and was excellent in the team’s run to the World Series before signing with the White Sox as a free agent.
And now Montero, along with closer Ryan Pressly, Bryan Abreu and Hector Neris have formed a bullpen that could get the Astros a title.
This story originally appeared on NYPost