MESA, Ariz. — History will forever show that Mike Montgomery recorded the save for the Chicago Cubs in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series.
So how did Montgomery process it all?
“It took a little while,” he said Monday as many Cubs pitchers and catchers worked out informally ahead of Tuesday’s official reporting date for spring training. “I actually didn’t realize it was a save until a few days later. That’s just how it went. It was just incredible, now even to see pictures of me with my arms raised in the middle of the whole pile.
“It was like, ‘Man, this really just happened.’ It’s cool because it goes to show you that you never know, because I wouldn’t have ever imagined winning a World Series, let alone being in the middle of it at the end, with the Cubs. At this time last year, I was just trying to make team with Seattle.”
Montgomery arrived at the Cubs’ Sloan Park facility with a job assured. Just what that job is remains to be seen.
The 27-year-old lefty has appeared in 65 big-league games since coming up with Seattle in 2015. Twenty-three of those games have been starts, and that’s the role Montgomery prefers.
He enters spring training in the mix to crack the starting rotation behind Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks and John Lackey. There also is competition with fellow lefty Brett Anderson.
The Cubs obtained Montgomery last July in a trade, and he appeared in 17 regular-season games, starting 5.
“I’ve always been a starter,” he said. “Last year was a situation where the need was in the bullpen, both with Seattle and with the Cubs early on. Then I filled the role of being a starter for short periods of time. I’ve talked to them about that role being valuable, especially after that long season.
“We’re going to need guys. You can’t just rely on five guys the whole year. I’m ready to do both. I feel comfortable starting. I think that’s first and foremost my most comfortable job. I’ve done it the most. But I think last year I learned a lot in the pen. I learned how to adapt to that, as well. I’m looking forward to doing either one this year.”
It’s possible both Montgomery and Anderson will get a good number of starts because manager Joe Maddon is fond of going with a six-man rotation during busy periods of the season.
“Great pitcher,” Montgomery said of Anderson. “I know that he’s had a couple of injuries in his career that have held him back. He’s good. I’m glad he’s here. He can definitely help us in a similar situation where he can pretty much do multiple roles or be a starter.
“I knew I was going to be competing for a starter’s spot this year, no matter what happens. It’s always the thought of, ‘Hey, you’re competing for a job.’ I’ve always in my mind said I’m going to get myself ready to compete, and however the chips fall, they fall. I’m excited. I’m looking forward to it.”
Now about that World Series save.
Montgomery pointed out he threw a grand total of 2 pitches in the bottom of the 10th inning at Cleveland in Game 7.
Perhaps that and the excitement of the moment made him forget that he had recorded the one and only save of his big-league career.
“For whatever reason,” he said. “Maybe it was extras. I had never really got a save. It was only one out, too. I was like, ‘OK, the game is over.’ And then, like a couple days later, I was saying, ‘Oh yeah.’ People were telling me, ‘Save. How does it feel?’ Oh yeah, that’s right. It was a save. It took a little while to process that. It went by fast. We’re already in spring training. It seems like we just kind of finished it off. We’re ready to go.”
And if Montgomery can carve out a nice career as a starter, he’s fine with that being his first and last save.
“If that’s the case, I’ll be OK if I never get a save again after that at one,” he said.
• Follow Bruce’s Cubs reports from spring training via Twitter @BruceMiles2112.