It didn’t take long for Jordan Montgomery to get a crack at his former team.
The Yankees, in a surprising buzzer-beater deal at the deadline, sent the southpaw to St. Louis last Aug. 2 in exchange for Harrison Bader. Montgomery then made his Cardinals debut at home against the Yankees on Aug. 6. He held his former coworkers scoreless over five innings.
While Montgomery shoved that day, Bader didn’t impact that game for his new squad, nor did he face his old one. The Yankees acquired the center fielder mid-recovery from plantar fasciitis, and he didn’t debut for his new team until September.
Instead, Friday’s series-opener will be the first Cardinals game Bader appears in as an opponent, assuming he starts for the Yankees. It will also mark his return to St. Louis, where he spent the first 5.5 years of his career.
“It’s gonna be really exciting,” Bader told the Daily News. “Obviously, I have a lot of history there. So just looking forward to seeing some old friends on and off the field.”
The Cards made Bader a third-round pick in 2015, and he established himself as an elite defender and fan favorite while impacting three playoff teams.
But the Redbirds had a surplus of outfielders and found themselves in need of starting pitching last summer. Bader, out with an injury and slated for free agency after this season, became expendable.
He found out about the trade in a phone call with Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak.
“It was tough,” Bader said of his reaction to the deal, “but it’s business and there are professional moves that have to take place, and I respect all them, so I didn’t take it personally whatsoever.
“There’s not a single bad thing or bad moment or bad instance that came to mind. There’s just so much love there, and I’m just excited to keep those memories alive in my head and move on to next chapter of my professional career.”
But the trade came with some perks, as Bader grew up rooting for the Yankees in nearby Bronxville, New York. He attended Horace Mann School, a private institution in the Bronx with grades ranging from the nursery level to high school.
Now Bader regularly plays in front of friends and family while donning a jersey he used to wear as a fan.
“It’s a blessing to put a major league uniform on, but to be able to do in front of your hometown, for a team that you used to root for… it really does mean a lot,” Bader said. “It’s just an absolute honor, and I don’t take it for granted any second.”
Bader has dealt with more injuries this season, suffering oblique and hamstring strains. He’s only played in 49 total regular season games for the Yankees as a result, which makes his impending free agency a curious case for New York.
However, the talented fielder’s bat has also made a noticeable impact when Bader has been healthy. He clubbed five home runs during the 2022 postseason, and he’s hit .268/.295/.480 with four doubles, two triples, six home runs, 22 RBI and a 111 wRC+ over 35 games this season.
He’s also stolen seven bases.
Bader owns a 97 wRC+, just below league-average, for his career, so he’s outperformed expectations a bit at the plate. Assistant Yankees hitting coach Casey Dykes told the News that some of that has to do with Bader’s load and controlling the lower half of the zone.
“When guys come to him, he’s a guy that can do some damage, as we saw last year in the playoffs and stretches this year,” Dykes said. “Obviously, he’s been battling the injury bug this year. Hoping to just get a long run of at-bats for him to kind of catch that groove again.”
Dykes added that Bader has also demonstrated a little more patience than he did in St. Louis.
“There’s been different stretches of that kind of throughout his career, where at times he’s done a really good job of it,” Dykes continued. “At times, he’s been a little more of a free swinger. But he’s extremely smart when it comes to game-planning and identifying how pitchers are trying to attack him.”
Now Bader is planning for how Cardinals pitchers will go after him at his old stomping grounds. That includes Montgomery, who is scheduled to start on Sunday at Busch Stadium.
Bader is eager to soak in the St. Louis crowd again, but he also knows the Yankees have more important things to worry about.
“I did a lot of work there, so it’ll be a lot of fun to kind of run around center field there and everything and get back in that box,” Bader said. “That place means a lot to me, so I’m just excited to go and take it all in. But at the same time, we got games to win.”
Source: Berkshire mont