Mike Montgomery, Kansas City's top minor league prospect, knows he can sometimes be a little resistant to change.
"I've been told I could be good on a debate team," he said.
But after being among the first wave of cuts from big league camp about a month ago, Montgomery decided he was ready to go to work on some mechanical changes in his delivery aimed at improving his consistency.
"At times there are a few things that I didn't necessarily want to change," Montgomery said. "But I also realize there are some things I have to figure out, especially mechanically. I realize they're helping me."
Montgomery, a 6-foot-4, 200-pound left-hander, makes his season debut for the Omaha Storm Chasers in Monday's 6:35 p.m. game with Round Rock, the opener of a four-game series at Werner Park.
The 22-year-old is looking to improve upon his initial Class AAA season, when he was a disappointing 5-11 with a 5.32 ERA.
"He's been more receptive to the changes he needed to make that will help him become more consistent," Omaha pitching coach Doug Henry said. "He's thrown the ball fairly well since he got sent out (to the minors).
"We're seeing the signs of what we were expecting last year. (But) he's got to buy into it all."
Montgomery's stubbornness is well-documented.
Early in his minor league career, he differed in opinion with Kansas City on his throwing program — he wanted to long toss between starts from greater distances than the Royals allow their pitchers. Eventually the sides compromised — Montgomery could still throw at a longer distance, but for shorter amounts of time.
Previously, Montgomery was kicked off his high school basketball team as a senior for getting too many technical fouls . some debates he can't win.
But there's no debating Montgomery's ability.
He was good enough to be selected 36th overall in the 2008 draft and receive a signing bonus of just less than $1 million.
He was named Kansas City's top prospect heading into the 2010 season by Baseball America magazine, and most considered him among the top 25 prospects among all minor leaguers heading into last season when he made his Class AAA debut with Omaha at the ripe old age of 21.
Despite struggling in 2011, he's still among baseball's top 25 prospects (Baseball America dropped him from No. 19 to No. 23) and he returned to the top of Kansas City's prospect list, according to BA (he'd abdicated in favor of Eric Hosmer prior to 2011).
So that resistance to change is easy to understand.
Montgomery nearly made the big league team out of spring training last year, but didn't get much of a look this time.
"I realized I've got to go work on some things to get better," he said. "That's the bottom line. I've got to get better."
Montgomery said the mechanical adjustments being undertaken to find a consistent release point are multiple, yet interconnected.
Staying straighter, rather than rocking back in his windup, keeps his arm in the proper angle and keeps his eyes on line with the target. That series of events allows him to land more softly on his front leg, which Henry said is the key for more consistency.
"If you don't (land softly), you never know where the ball is going to end up," Henry said. "That's kind of what happened last year.
"He's actually making the adjustments that we tried to make last year."
Montgomery said he never felt comfortable trying to make midseason adjustments in 2011, but said he's had the time to find that comfort zone in the past month.
"Then it comes down to getting hitters out," Montgomery said. "And that's having the mindset of, 'I'm here to attack the hitter . Bring it on.'"
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