Duffy seemed to have more success throughout his minor league career. By his third professional season, he was having success in AA, pitching for Northwest Arkansas in the Texas League. After making eight starts for AAA Omaha in 2011, Duffy was called up to the big show at the age of 22. He got roughed up a bit, pitching to a 5.63 ERA in 20 starts. His struggles were attributed to never having pitched as many innings at any level before. As 2012 was set to start, Duffy was expected to be a main part of the team's rotation.
Duffy's season ended on May 13th after he was taken out of the game after 2/3 of an inning. He underwent Tommy John surgery and would not pitch in the major leagues again until August 7, 2013. Duffy's elbow responded to the operation as in his five 2013 starts, he pitched to a 1.85 ERA. The following season became what the Royals were expecting in 2012. Duffy went 9-12, 2.53 in 31 games, 25 starts while his innings were being monitored. He also appeared in three postseason games- two of them in the World Series against the San Francisco Giants.
Montgomery had the same start to his professional career as Duffy did. The year he was drafted, he was lights out in the Gulf Coast League. The next season (2009), he seemed to have no trouble in low or high A ball. Similar to Duffy's path, Montgomery reached AA in his third professional season. Also, like Duffy, Montgomery was put on the roster of AAA Omaha to start the 2011 season. That Omaha pitching staff featured the likes of Greg Holland, Kelvin Herrera and fellow future MLB pitchers Vin Mazzaro, Jesse Chavez, Jeremy Jeffress and Sean O'Sullivan.
Montgomery pitched a career high 150 innings that season, all for Omaha. He had similar struggles at this level to what Duffy had in the majors. Mike was 5-11, 5.32 in 28 games, 27 starts. In spite of the struggles, it seemed Montgomery would get a chance to pitch in the big leagues in 2012. That, of course, did not happen as Montgomery continued to struggle while with Omaha. So much so, that he was sent down to AA NW Arkansas, where he pitched even worse. He finished 2012 with a 5-12, 6.07 splitting time straight down the middle between AAA and AA.
A third season in AAA was on the horizon for Montgomery, but his place as a top prospect had evaporated. Baseball America had rated Montgomery 39th on the top 100 prospects headed into the 2010 season, 19th going into 2011 and 23rd going into 2012. Montgomery was more touted as a big league prospect than Duffy, even though he had already made his MLB debut. Baseball America did not feel the same going into 2013, leaving him off the top 100 list. Perhaps with the prospect tag falling off the Montgomery suit, the Royals had to evaluate their future with the former first round pick.
Maybe it was that alone that interested the Tampa Bay Rays, who traded for Montgomery as part of the WIl Myers/ James Shields trade. The Rays were more interested in Myers and Jake Odorizzi, but Montgomery was included along with 3B Patrick Leonard to get the Royals Shields and Wade Davis. Montgomery has spent the past two seasons pitching mostly in AAA for the Durham Bulls, working on his change up.
This past off season, the Rays dealt Montgomery to the Seattle Mariners for RHP Erasmo Ramirez, with the thinking behind the deal being Ramirez can join the MLB rotation immediately. Montgomery was still considered a project, in spite of having his best season in AAA (10-5, 4.25, 25 starts) in 2014. Montgomery was called up in 2015 to replace the injured James Paxton and pitched well enough to win his first MLB start against the Yankees. A blown save eliminated his chance at his first win. Most baseball fans know who Mike Montgomery is now, as he has thrown two consecutive complete game shutouts for the Mariners. He is the first Mariners pitcher since Freddy Garcia in 2001 to accomplish the feat.
Many may think his accomplishment is just a rare feat; Montgomery's 15 minutes of fame. I think of it as deeper than that. Montgomery has a change up that he throws 10 miles an hour slower than his fastball. And it is impossible to see any difference in his arm motion when he throws either pitch. I think he is in the big leagues to stay. Perhaps Tom Glavine is too unfair of a comparison, but I think it is safe to say this could be one of Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik's biggest steals.