Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

Isotope Montes’ offseason work pays dividends at the plate

Thursday night’s game probably couldn’t get over fast enough for Coco Montes and the Albuquerque Isotopes.

The 25-year-old infielder was 0-for-2 at the plate and the Isotopes managed just three hits in a 15-0 loss to visiting Sugar Land.

The loss ended an eight-game home win streak for the Isotopes, who scored 189 runs in the month (the seventh-highest scoring month in franchise history) and Montes wrapped up arguably the best offensive month of baseball he’s had in his four professional seasons in the Colorado Rockies organization.

“It’s contagious,” Montes said in an interview prior to Thursday’s game about how well the team’s been hitting of late. “We just got a bunch of good hitters on this team – guys with pop, guys that are swinging to hit the ball in the air. That’s the new way of this game is – hit the ball in the air.”

And when you hit the ball in the air, Montes and others who come to the high elevation of Albuquerque quickly find out, good things tend to happen.

In his first three seasons, Montes had never hit more than 13 home runs in a year. And he was homerless through 15 games to start this season at Double-A Hartford, as well as through the first 19 games after getting called up to the Triple-A Isotopes before hitting his first homer on May 28.

Then came June.

Montes hit seven home runs in June with 22 RBIs and batted .321, hitting seemingly out of every spot in the lineup and playing wherever and whenever manager Warren Schaeffer needed him.

In 2022, Montes is hitting .282 with eight home runs and 34 RBIs – on pace for the best power numbers of his career.

“It’s not too surprising because coming in (to the season), he was a doubles machine,” Schaeffer said, referring to Montes having 66 doubles over his previous two professional seasons (29 for Single-A Asheville in 2019 and 37 for Double- A Hartford in 2021).

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Montes said he put in plenty of work this past offseason, both in adding 13 pounds to last year’s regular playing weight and in discipline at the plate.

“I definitely made some adjustments this offseason, worked on some things I needed to work on and it’s paying off so far,” Montes said. “It was more just pitch selection than anything else. I was swinging at a lot of pitches that I couldn’t do damage to (in the past) just so I could put the ball in play. This year, I’ve kept my swing rate down, my chase rate is down.”

Montes’ work ethic and attitude are every bit as important to his recent run of success as any of that offseason work, Schaeffer said.

“You know, he was sent to Double-A out of spring training this year after really playing his way out of Double-A last year,” Schaeffer said. “(Rockies Director of Player Development Chris Forbes) called him into a meeting and told him he’s going back to Double-A and was explaining it to him, but Coco said to him, you don’t have to explain anything. You don’t have to worry about me. I’m going to go about my business.

“Some guys sulk when that happens, but Coco, that’s the kind of guy he is. And he worked his way back here. That says a lot about him and about why he’s playing so well right now.”

Coco Montes (11) prepares to make a play at third base during action Wednesday at Isotopes Park. (Chancey Bush/Journal)

‘TOPES FRIDAY: Vs. Sugar Land

7:05 pm, Isotope Park, 610 AM/95.9 FM

PROMOTION: Clear backpacks giveaway

PROBABLES: Space Cowboys RHP Peter Solomon (2-5, 6.12) vs. Isotopes RHP Brandon Gold (4-2, 5.17)

THURSDAY: Sugar Land starter Hunter Brown pitched six strong innings, setting the tone for a lopsided 15-0 win over the host Isotopes.

Albuquerque managed just three hits compared with 16 for the Space Cowboys. Jonathan Morales had two of the hits for Albuquerque.

The loss ends an eight-game home winning streak for the Isotopes, who finished the first half of their season with a 36-39 record.

(Click here for Thursday’s box score, here for updated Pacific Coast League standings.)

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