Commentary

Hype around Jesus looks justified

With two mighty swings, Montero transformed minor league hype into big league reality

Updated: September 6, 2011, 10:33 AM ET
By Andrew Marchand | ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- When rookie Jesus Montero's first homer connected with his bat, he said "Gone." The ball flew through the Labor Day sky and into the right-field stands, breaking a tie score in the fifth.

In the seventh inning, Montero did it again, on a low outside fastball, another special swing that left his usually hype-less manager, Joe Girardi, comparing it to that of a young Alex Rodriguez's.

Gone? What is gone?

Hype left the park on Monday. In the words of John Sterling, "Jesus is loose." Montero transformed all the minor league praise into major league reality.

Montero, at 21, is entering the next stage of potentially becoming a Yankees superstar.

In his fourth game as a Yankee, Montero nailed his first two homers and, with a youthful smile, his first two curtain calls.

"I was dreaming about that," Montero said.

The swings that Montero unleashed in the Yankees' 11-10 win over the Orioles were the ones that honored the comparisons to a young A-Rod by his manager, and to Manny Ramirez and Miguel Cabrera by his GM.

"You don't get too giddy on one game and you don't get too down on another game," Girardi said. "We have always said this young man can swing the bat."

Girardi has to have an even-keeled demeanor that a 162-game slate demands, but Yankees fans don't. Yes, Shelley Duncan also had a multihomer game within his first four of his Yankees career, but Duncan was nearly 28 and didn't arrive with the same level of expectation as Montero.

Yankees GM Brian Cashman hopes one day Montero can be another Jorge Posada behind the plate. It is still unknown if Montero will able to catch well enough, but in the short term Montero could take Posada's postseason DH role.

Jesus Montero
Jim McIsaac/Getty ImagesRookie Jesus Montero looked poised to become the next Yankees superstar after two long homers Monday.

Montero could be to this stretch run what Joba Chamberlain was to 2007. Posada could be the one sacrificed to make it happen. One catcher turned DH for another.

Posada's name may be crossed off the playoff roster to make way for Montero's, especially if the Yankees face left-leaning Texas in the American League Division Series.

Posada knows this is in play, but reacted to Montero's success as a man with four rings should. Classily, he led the cheers and offered advice.

In the fifth, with the score tied at eight, Montero smashed an outside fastball from Jim Johnson the other way. He showed the quick hands that led Cashman to hype the kid as potentially a Ramirez-Cabrera-type hitter.

Montero stepped on home, kissed his hands and pointed to the sky. He took a few more steps and clapped his hands before getting five from Brett Gardner and Derek Jeter.

As Montero stepped into the dugout, Posada, wearing a big smile on his face, put out his hand to Montero and then rubbed the top of his helmet, like a proud papa with a son.

Montero made his way through the receiving line, which extended all the way out the end of the dugout, as the crowd noise grew, louder and louder. The 45,069 on their feet implored Montero to step out of the dugout.

Montero had dreamt about the moment. He said he had watched Posada, Jeter and other great Yankees tip their caps. But he waited for the green light.

"Say hi to them," Posada told Montero.

With a childlike smile on his face, he gave the fans what they wanted, removing his helmet, extending it in his right hand and soaking in the moment.

In the seventh, it was like another old Yankees catcher used to say. Montero had déjà vu all over again, nearly nailing his second homer in the exact same spot. This one, with a man on and again off Johnson, came on an outside fastball that may have been a ball. Girardi described the ability to reach the pitch and drive it as "special."

When asked whom it reminded him of, the manager mentioned the man who might be the future home run king.

"Alex was a young player who had that ability to do that," Girardi said. "It is one thing to hit home runs to pull side. It is another thing to be able to go out the other way on balls like that."

It seems as if we have been writing and hearing about Montero for years, even if he is only 21. Will the Yankees include him in a trade for Roy Halladay? How about Cliff Lee?

If he stays, can he catch? The one thing that everyone -- from scouts to executives to his fellow players -- always said is that the kid can swing.

But until it is done in a major league game, no one really knows. Now, we do.

Gone? With two swings, hype is gone. It is now reality.

Next stop: Superstar?

Andrew Marchand is a senior writer for ESPNNewYork. He also regularly contributes to SportsCenter, Baseball Tonight, ESPNews, ESPN New York 98.7 FM and ESPN Radio. He joined ESPN in 2007 after nine years at the New York Post. Follow Andrew on Twitter »

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