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Frankie Montas aces debut without best stuff

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White Sox rookie records 1-2-3 inning thanks to surprise sliders

Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports

If you were hoping to see Frankie Montas make his debut throwing triple-digit heat and challenging Aroldis Chapman's domination of Statcast's velocity leaderboard, the big White Sox rookie might have disappointed you.

If you were hoping for a successful inaugural outing and maybe a knee-buckling slider if that doesn't sound greedy, you were in luck.

The revised Brooks data shows that Montas averaged only 98 mph on his fastball, topping out at 99.1 mph. That's similar to how he looked in the Futures Game, when he started at 96-98, then loosened up and started hitting 100, 101 and even 102 on one gun.

Unlike the Futures Game, Montas didn't get pummeled at a lower velocity. He blew strike one past a swinging Miguel Sano up in the zone at 97, which was the only fastball Montas threw for a strike in that at-bat out of four tries.

However, the slider worked for him, and maybe better than it should have. Montas fooled Sano twice with his breaking ball. Sano couldn't pull the trigger on a front-door slider on 2-1, and also froze on this one on 3-2, resulting in Montas' first strikeout.

Frank Montas slider

That's another one that ended up more inside that Tyler Flowers wanted. Fortunately, it wasn't a spinner/hanger/cement mixer. It had enough break, and it was height was right. It might have ended poorly if Sano was looking for a secondary pitch as much as he was all over Nate Jones' full-count slider from the day before ...

... but he wasn't. So really, Jones was nothing more than a man ahead of his time:

Montas' inning ended with Torii Hunter hitting a 97-mph fastball firmly but directly to Carlos Sanchez for a 4-3 putout, and Eddie Rosario flying out harmlessly to opposite field on a slider that probably could've been crushed. It was 88, up and over the plate:

Montas slider 2

Before the game, Montas said his ability to throw a slider improved by leaps and bounds:

"Right now, I feel like my slider is my strikeout pitch," said Montas. "Even though I have my fastball, which is a good pitch, too, I feel like my second best pitch is my slider.

"It's progressed a lot. In Spring Training, I was throwing it but not how I wanted. Now I feel like I control more of how I want it. Just throwing it more in the game, practicing it a lot -- It's getting better."

But when you look at the pitch chart, I'm not certain these were the locations he wanted -- two on the inner half to a right-handed hitter, and the one to Rosario above:

Montas chart

But Montas has a couple things going for him. The first is that it was his debut, and he admitted experiencing jitters:

"I was nervous. My legs were kind of shaking. I was like, 'Oh, my God. I'm really here,'" said Montas with refreshing candor in the discussion of achieving his lifelong goal. "I was thinking just try to throw the ball for a strike."

Scouts who saw Montas get swatted around early in his Futures Game appearance thought nerves played a part in his struggles during that inning. That's all understandable, so to overcome butterflies and notch a 1-2-3 inning is outstanding no matter how it happens.

The other part -- he had the confidence to throw his slider in non-slider counts, which might help mitigate any kind problems he has establishing his best fastball command and velocity. Those particular aspects of his game were no-shows on Wednesday, and yet he navigated through his first-ever outing without a scare.