NEW YORK -- By the time Rafael Montero shuffled off the Citi Field mound in the second inning Wednesday, he had walked two batters, hit two others, allowed an upper-deck home run and a bases-loaded balk. He had thrown 74 pitches in two innings. (For comparison, Rangers starter Martin Perez threw 89 in eight innings.) And in manager Terry Collins' estimation, the damage against Montero could have been worse.
Ultimately, Montero lasted three innings in the Mets' 5-1 loss to the Rangers, allowing four runs to fall to 0-4 with a 6.48 ERA since the start of July. Yet when asked if Montero might make another start, Collins admitted that he probably won't have a choice.
"We don't have a lot of options right now, so it will just have to be discussed here in the next couple of days," Collins said. "If we can't come up with an option, he's going to go back out."
As recently as mid-July, the Mets still harbored hopes for Montero, the one-time top prospect who has shuttled from Triple-A Las Vegas to the Mets 10 times in the past four seasons. On each occasion, Montero has flamed out in short order, unable to throw strikes with any consistency. But Montero has often tantalized the Mets along the way, as he did in posting a 1.46 ERA over a three-outing stretch from mid- to late June.
Since that time, the walks have begun piling up for Montero, who is unable -- or in his manager's estimation, unwilling -- to pepper the strike zone.
"If you're at this level," Collins said, "you ought to be able to throw a strike when you need to."
As he often does, Montero chalked up his outing to "just a bad day," saying he abandoned his changeup early because he could not control it. But bad days have long been the norm for Montero, whose seemingly endless pool of chances may finally be running dry.
Though Robert Gsellman has struggled this month in his rehab from a torn left hamstring, he is not far off from a big league return. Matt Harvey should begin a rehab assignment himself within a week, meaning the Mets could regain two members of their Opening Day rotation in short order. And Noah Syndergaard still hopes to return at some point down the stretch.
Yet in the immediate short-term, Collins admitted that the Mets may keep turning to Montero, who is finding new and unique ways to lose games.
Just before Joey Gallo hit a two-run homer in the first inning, Montero balked home the Rangers' first run. Clearly upset by the play, he followed with a changeup well low of the strike zone, then a thigh-high fastball that Gallo clobbered into the upper deck.
"You've got to get the next guy," Collins said of Montero's actions after the balk. "It's part of the game, so you've got to be able to forget about it and get the next pitch. Now, that's easier said than it is to do when guys are trying to fight for jobs, and fight for opportunities to get out there. Failure's tough sometimes. It's the age-old thing: You've got to learn how to fail. You've got to learn how to deal with it. You've got to learn how to get through it."
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.