Mike Montgomery moving to bullpen in bid to make Rays

Mike Montgomery, a starter throughout his minor-league career, says he’d expect a “seamless” transition to the bullpen.
Mike Montgomery, a starter throughout his minor-league career, says he’d expect a “seamless” transition to the bullpen.
Published March 2, 2015

PORT CHARLOTTE — LHP Mike Montgomery is moving to the bullpen with the idea that it could get him to the major leagues sooner.

With two potential open spots in the pen — and with their top lefty, Jake McGee, out the first month — the Rays will look at Montgomery working in relief this spring.

"We felt his best chance to impact us was to get him in some relief roles," manager Kevin Cash said.

Montgomery, 25, has been a starter his seven-year pro career, spending most of the past four seasons at the Triple-A level, including a 10-5, 4.29 showing at Durham last year. But he has some relief experience in the Arizona Fall League.

"It's definitely something that if they want me to do that, and if called upon to do that, I could do it," he said. "And I don't think it would be much of a transition. It would be pretty seamless."

Plus, the former Royals first-round pick and top prospect, acquired in the James Shields trade, said, "Obviously you want to be in the big leagues, and any way you can get there is what you want to do."

FOR STARTERS: Two of the candidates for the open spot in the rotation will start the first two exhibition games, RHP Nathan Karns facing the Orioles on Thursday and RHP Matt Andriese the Twins on Friday.

RHP Alex Cobb will face the Pirates in Bradenton on Saturday, which, for those doing the math, puts him on a five-start schedule for the April 6 season opener.

Starters their first time out will be limited to one inning, unless it is very short, Cash said.

Karns, who had one good and one bad start for the Rays last year, might be the favorite, especially the longer RHP Alex Colome remains delayed by visa issues in the Dominican Republic.

"I can't wait for the season to get going," Karns said. "Anytime I can get out there early in camp, it's going to be that much better."

ARCHER CONCERNED: Chris Archer, who has looked sharp in camp, is lined up to pitch Sunday's home game against Philadelphia. But with another live batting practice Tuesday and a bullpen session Thursday, the right-hander seems concerned about the workload.

"It's just a lot, a lot of volume, and it's a little unrealistic for a starter to throw to hitters, day off, throw to hitters, day off," he said. "So I'm just going to limit (my throwing). Next time I might only throw to two hitters. I threw to four (Sunday), probably 18 total pitches. I don't want to overdo myself, overwork myself."

POOL REPORT: RHP Ronald Belisario provided some of the details of the month-old swimming pool accident that resulted in a fractured left shoulder that will sideline him at least the first few weeks of the season.

Belisario said he was playing in the pool at his Venezuela home with his daughter and was coming out of the water when he hit his shoulder on the lip on the side of the pool. He said it hurt, but he didn't consider it serious and didn't notice any issues since he wasn't throwing or working out, having taken a break after finishing playing winter ball.

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Belisario not only didn't tell the Rays about the injury before he signed his minor-league deal on Feb. 6; he didn't tell them until reporting to camp last week. "I thought it was like nothing, I didn't know it was a fracture," he said. The Rays didn't have him undergo a physical until he got to Port Charlotte.

Belisario won't do any throwing or onfield activity for at least two weeks but said he expects to be ready by April 15.

ONFIELD ACTION: RHP Ernesto Frieri has looked sharp in the bullpen and showed it in batting practice Sunday, splintering Tim Beckham's bat with his first pitch. … Archer worked mostly out of the stretch, focusing on quickening his time to the plate. … Cash noted the quick hands of INF prospects Ryan Brett and overall play of Daniel Robertson. … RHP Jake Odorizzi said his BP session went okay — "it wasn't crazy good and it wasn't bad."