05/03/09 2:55 PM ET
What a year for Montanez
O's outfielder goes from Double-A to the big leagues
By Larry Millson / Special to MLB.com
It seems a long time ago, but it was only last July when the two were playing in the Double-A Eastern League's All-Star Game in Manchester, N.H., and the pair met in the final round of the home run derby.
Snider won the derby, putting on a show for the hometown fans in Manchester, where the Blue Jays' Double-A team plays, leaving second place for Montanez, who made a good competition of it.
Later that season, both graduated to the Major Leagues, where Snider has played since, while Montanez was back at Triple-A, before being recalled on April 21.
But Montanez has something Snider would like to have -- and will have some day. It is the bat awarded to the winner of the home run derby that night.
"You know what was funny about that, they made the presentation [and] the award was a bat for runner-up and champion," Montanez said. "And they [were] confused and gave me the champion's bat, and he has the runner-up [bat]. I told him I'll bring it to him, but I have it in my house and he has the runner-up bat. But he did get the check for $1,000, so I guess that`s compensation."
Montanez, who bats right-handed, while Snider bats from the left side, laughs when he recalls the home run derby that seems so long ago for both players.
"He had all the advantages. I talked to him about it," Montanez said good-naturedly. "His coach was throwing the batting practice to him and me, he had the short porch in right field and the crowd was behind him."
Montanez batted .295 with three home runs and 14 RBIs after being called up on Aug. 5 from Double-A Bowie, where he became the fifth player in Eastern League history and the first since 1976 to win the hitting Triple Crown. On Aug. 6, Montanez became the second Orioles player to hit a home run in his first Major League at-bat.
While Snider, 21, who was called up to Toronto late in the 2008 season, opened this season in the Majors, Montanez, who is 28, opened this season in Triple-A.
"I had a really good Spring Training; it was a numbers thing," Montanez said. "I was OK with it. The progression [is] always an uphill climb."
Montanez was called up when Ryan Freel went on the disabled list.
"Last year we were in the Minor Leagues in Double-A, and this year we're already here in the big leagues," Montanez said. "It's been a long time it seems, but it hasn't been even a year. Our lives have totally changed."
Montanez started in left field in Saturday's game, a 5-4 loss to the Blue Jays in 11 innings. He hit a double, took a walk and made a diving catch. On the defensive play, Montanez caught his right thumb on the unforgiving artificial turf at Rogers Centre, and after having X-rays, he was diagnosed with a mild sprain.
Montanez had the thumb wrapped, but Baltimore manager Dave Trembley still held out hope that he could use the right-handed bat against Tampa Bay starter Scott Kazmir on Monday at Tropicana Field.
Trembley probably will find a way to give Montanez more chances to play as he continues to find a combination that clicks at the bottom of his lineup.
"I would like to be able to give him some more opportunities to give him some at-bats," Trembley said. "I would think going to Tampa with Kazmir going to start one of the games, he would have an opportunity to see what he could do with some more at-bats and maybe starting a couple of days in row.
"But we have to go with the best lineup we have to see if we can win a few games here, and he's capable of helping us offensively, especially in the bottom of the lineup. The bottom of the lineup needs to pick it up and chip in a little more. I'm just trying to find the right combination to see if we can get untracked and win some games. I'm going to try and play the guy who's hot."
Larry Millson is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.