By Ronald Blum
AP Baseball Writer
NEW YORK — Wearing his new Toronto Blue Jays jersey, Miguel Montero wanted to put his petulant parting from the Chicago Cubs behind him.
“It wasn’t the perfect departure, but it is what it was. I live the moment, and I just really don’t look back at the past right now,” he said Tuesday after reporting to his new team. “It happened already. It’s over. So I’m just worried about today, and whatever happened, happened. Time to forget.”
The denouement of Montero’s time with the World Series champions transpired quickly. He criticized pitcher Jake Arrieta on June 27 for a slow delivery that led to seven stolen bases in a 6-1 loss to Washington, was designated for assignment the next day and was dealt Monday for a player to be named or cash. Chicago agreed to pay Toronto $6,446,710 to cover all but about $500,000 of the roughly $7 million remaining of Montero’s $14 million salary this year.
A two-time All-Star, Montero hit .286 with four homers and eight RBIs in 44 games this season. He has thrown out one of 31 base stealers this season after catching just five of 64 last year.
“I’ve heard nothing but great things about the guy,” manager John Gibbons said before Toronto’s 4-1 victory against the New York Yankees. “I’ve heard he’s a great team guy. He’s still very productive.”
Now 33, Montero was with Arizona from 2006-14, then was traded to the Cubs. He was downgraded to a backup last season, when he hit a pinch grand slam that sent Chicago to victory in the NL Championship Series opener against the Los Angeles Dodgers. After catching Arrieta most of the season, he was unhappy that Cubs manager Joe Maddon started Willson Contreras behind the plate when Arrieta pitched in the postseason.
“We had what we had in the past. We solved it out this spring training,” Montero said. “The whole year he was great to me, and we were getting along well.”
Montero had harsh words for Arrieta after what turned out to be his last game with the Cubs.
“It really sucked because the stolen bases go to me, and when you really look at it, the pitcher doesn’t give me any time,” Montero said. “So it’s just like, ‘Yeah, OK, Miggy can’t throw nobody out,’ but my pitcher doesn’t hold anybody on.”
Montero maintained there is no lasting acrimony.
“We’re good. We’re good friends, and we still are,” he said.
Gibbons, a former big league catcher, said Montero did have a valid point.
“They take the heat for it, no doubt. But a pitcher controls, so he’s got to give you a chance,” he said. “Certain pitchers with their deliveries, their size, they have a much tougher time. That’s just the way it is.”
Yankees manager Joe Girardi, another former catcher, agreed there is only so much that can be done.
“If the times are slow and the baserunners are fast, I don’t care how accurate your arm and how good your arm is, you’re going to have a hard time throwing people out.” he said.
Still, Montero broke etiquette by going public with his gripes. Asked how he would take it if one of his own catchers made similar public statements, Gibbons replied: “It would depend on what kind of mood I was in, to be truthful.”
Having helped the Cubs win their first title since 1908, Montero was part of an unforgettable moment in the team’s history.
“I had a great time in Chicago,” he said. “I respect the fans. I respect the city, and respect my teammates. And it’s over now. I’ve got a new team to worry about right now.”
He was looking forward to making his debut with the Blue Jays, where he will back up Russell Martin.
“When you played against them, it was a team that was really intimidating,” Montero said, “because they had pretty good hitters and as a catcher you didn’t have a way out.”