Montgomery in Minors to 'cut back' on innings

Yankees to be mindful of left-hander's workload while keeping him stretched out as starter

Montgomery in Minors to 'cut back' on innings

TORONTO -- The Yankees are looking at Jordan Montgomery's demotion to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre as an opportunity for the rookie left-hander to ease off the gas a bit before returning to the big leagues later this season.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that part of the motivation for optioning Montgomery to the Minors is to keep him stretched out to start while ensuring his innings total remains under 180. Montgomery threw 115 2/3 innings in 21 starts this year, going 7-6 with a 4.05 ERA.

"We're going to shorten some outings down there just to cut back a little bit," Girardi said. "We do have somewhat of a concern that if he got over 180 innings, where he would be. It's not a number set, but the innings are always a little more stressful here. We decided that we're just going to cut him back a little bit but keep him as a starter."

Last season, Montgomery worked 139 1/3 Minor League innings plus 12 2/3 more in the Triple-A postseason.

Montgomery's demotion followed the Yankees' acquisitions of left-hander Jaime Garcia and right-hander Sonny Gray prior to the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. The 24-year-old Montgomery had struggled in July, unable to complete five innings in three of six starts, but he finished on a high note.

Gray's first start as a Yankee

In Montgomery's most recent outing on Saturday, he retired the final nine hitters he faced before being removed from a 2-1 victory over the Indians after just five innings and 65 pitches.

"I think he's disappointed, but as I tried to reassure him, it's because we really care about him," Girardi said. "We care about all our players, but this is not just a one-year deal for him. We envision him being a starter here a long time, and we want to make sure we don't push him too hard."

In a corresponding roster move, the Yankees recalled right-hander Bryan Mitchell from Triple-A. Girardi said that he plans to use Mitchell mostly as a long reliever.

Bombers bits

Greg Bird (right ankle surgery) is optimistic that he could begin a Minor League rehab assignment following the Yankees' upcoming homestand. Bird took two rounds of batting practice on Tuesday at Rogers Centre, fielded grounders, threw and ran.

"Big difference," Bird said. "I'm really pleased with where I'm at. I think it'll only get better now."

Aaron Hicks (right oblique strain) had his Minor League rehab transferred to Double-A Trenton and could be activated this weekend, when the Yankees host the Red Sox for a three-game series in the Bronx. Hicks has been out since June 25 and was 6-for-16 (.375) in five rehab games for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, which is beginning a six-game road trip.

Starlin Castro (right hamstring strain) took batting practice on Tuesday in Toronto and is "progressing well," according to Girardi, though the Yankees do not yet have a date for him to begin playing in games.

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.