The starting pitcher is a fresh-faced right-hander in his early 20s, arriving in the big leagues with a reputation for throwing strikes and backed by a healthy amount of buzz behind his name.
Masahiro Tanaka? Yes, he'll be on the mound as the Subway Series shifts settings across borough lines to Citi Field tonight at 7:10 ET, but the Mets are trying to keep their run of intracity dominance alive as they hand the ball to Rafael Montero for his Major League debut.
The Mets believe that the 23-year-old Montero is ready for this challenge, and he should have his work cut out for him against a Bombers lineup hungry to snap a six-game losing streak against the Amazin's that dates back to last season.
"It's a very similar thing that we talked about with Ruben Tejada a few years ago," Mets manager Terry Collins said, referring to his shortstop. "I think his maturity is beyond his years as a pitcher. This guy has a feel for pitching. He knows when to pitch inside. He's not afraid to pitch inside. He's a strike thrower with all his stuff.
"The Dominican players nicknamed him 'Little Pedro' because he's got a feel for it. Those are big statements. I don't think he's going to be intimidated. Obviously he might be a little anxious, but I think once he gets out there, he's going to be who he is, because that's his mentality."
Tanaka, who has started his big league career with a perfect 5-0 record through seven starts, may be the Yankees' best bet to break up the Mets' winning party.
"No pressure; nothing changes what I need to do," Tanaka said through an interpreter. "I'm just going out there and doing my thing, so no pressure on me."
The $155 million prize also has a run of winning that goes back even longer; Tanaka is unbeaten in his last 41 regular-season starts (33-0), including his time in Nippon Professional Baseball.
With the game being played in a National League park, Tanaka will get to hit for the second consecutive game; he went hitless in three at-bats against the Brewers on Friday, and after rating his hitting as "near the bottom" among his peers, Tanaka said that he is more interested in his duties on the mound.
"I did get a chance to stand in the batter's box, but I'd like to focus more on my pitching," Tanaka said. "Just be able to pitch the way I want to out there tomorrow."
Montero arrived in New York on Tuesday after being promoted from Triple-A Las Vegas, where he was 4-1 with a 3.67 ERA in eight starts. Montero is set to become just the second Met to make his Major League debut during the Subway Series, joining Jaime Cerda (2002).
"That's really what I work hard for and train for, because it could happen at any moment," Montero said. "I'm really glad the time is here."
Yankees: Ichiro hopeful to get back in action
Ichiro Suzuki's sore lower back is improving, according to the veteran outfielder, and he is hoping that he will be able to get back on the field after sitting out the last two games.
Ichiro, 40, injured his back attempting to catch a sinking line drive in Sunday's game against the Brewers at Miller Park. He was unable to take batting practice on the field on Monday or Tuesday, a rarity for him.
Despite beginning the year in a limited role, Ichiro has been one of the Yankees' more productive offensive players thus far. He is batting .364 (20-for-55) with an .833 on-base plus slugging percentage in 30 games and has logged 10 hits in his last 27 at-bats.
"Those are some of the things that you deal with," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I think when you become older, your body doesn't necessarily bounce back as quick and maybe heal quite as quick."
Mets: Tejada trying to nail down job
Tejada started at shortstop for a third straight game on Tuesday, and he may be showing the Mets something. Tejada went 1-for-4 with an RBI single, a walk and two runs scored in the Mets' 12-7 victory, warding off the presence of infielder Wilmer Flores on the roster.
"The perception would be he got a wake-up call, and that sometimes makes a big difference," Collins said.
For the past two-plus seasons, Tejada has played without a real challenger at shortstop. He responded with some of the worst offensive numbers of any player in the big leagues.
"Maybe he just got refocused," Collins said.
• The Yankees have lost six straight games to the Mets (since May 27, 2013) for the first time in the history of the Subway Series. The Yankees have won 54 of the 96 all-time regular-season meetings between the two clubs.
• Infielder Yangervis Solarte has an eight-game hitting streak for the Yankees. During that streak, he is batting .500 (14-for-28) with seven runs, a double, two homers, nine RBIs and three walks. Solarte leads the Yankees with 22 RBIs this season.
• Daniel Murphy is hitting .371 (26-for-70) in his last 17 games, dating back to April 24. He has hit safely in 20 of his last 22 games and 30 of 36 games overall this season.
• David Wright has a season-high 11-game hitting streak. His RBI single on Tuesday made him the 20th active player to reach 900 RBIs in his career.
• Curtis Granderson has reached base safely in 17 of his last 19 games.