When the Yankees came to Busch Stadium last season, it was three days after their stunning trade with the Cardinals.

Harrison Bader stayed back in New York, still in a walking boot and six weeks away from playing his first game as a Yankee, while Jordan Montgomery tossed five shutout innings against his former team in his first start as a Cardinal.

Roughly 11 months later, the Yankees returned to Busch Stadium on Friday with Bader as a key cog in their lineup when healthy, and both players more entrenched on their respective teams.

“It was crazy,” manager Aaron Boone said Friday. “[The trade] obviously came together quick and Monty was gone all of a sudden. Then we came right here and faced him right away, which was really weird.

“Obviously, it was hard to lose Monty and glad he’s doing well here. 

“But also knew we were getting a dynamic player in the center of the diamond. It took a little while for [Bader] to get going, but once he did and joined our lineup, he was a real difference-maker. That’s what we’ve seen so far when he’s been healthy this year.”

Bader missed 46 games during his two times on the injured list this season.
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Maintaining good health has been a battle for Bader, who recently returned from his second stint on the injured list this season — the first for a strained oblique and the second for a strained hamstring. 

The center fielder missed 46 games between the two trips to the IL, but the Yankees entered Friday 24-11 in games he has played this season.

“Wow,” Boone said when told of the stat. “Look, I think part of that is a testament to him and the kind of impact player he is on both sides of the ball. Also parts of that, you never know what goes into a game and by baseball terms, kind of a small sample.

“At the end of the day, everyone can acknowledge and knows he’s a really good two-way player. 

“The thing is he’s come over here and fit in so well. He feels like a Yankee.”

Whether Bader will remain a Yankee after this season remains to be seen, as he is set to hit free agency this offseason. He has been a spark plug when available to the Yankees — including providing some surprising power during the playoffs last year — but his injury history will certainly factor into the Yankees’ ultimate decision.

Montgomery says it may be easier to pitch against former Yankee teammates this season. as the trade isn't as 'fresh.'
Montgomery says it may be easier to pitch against former Yankee teammates this season. as the trade isn’t as ‘fresh.’
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Montgomery, meanwhile, will face the Yankees on Sunday.

The left-hander posted a 3.11 ERA in 11 starts with the Cardinals last season and currently owns a 3.52 ERA across 16 starts and 92 innings this year, providing them the kind of consistency that the Yankees came to expect from him.

The bearded 30-year-old said facing his former teammates Sunday will feel different than when he had to pitch against them last season when the trade was still so “fresh.”

“This one might be a little easier,” Montgomery said. “I still keep in contact with a lot of guys over there. I don’t know if it’ll ever be easy facing your friends, but it’s just part of it.

“Plenty of guys got friends in the league.”

Montgomery said he does not spend much time thinking about what could have been had he stayed with the Yankees because “it was their decision getting rid of me.”

He shared plenty of hugs with his former teammates and coaches on Friday afternoon but made it clear he was looking forward to facing them this weekend.

Jordan Montgomery #47 of the St. Louis Cardinals
Jordan Montgomery #47 of the St. Louis Cardinals.
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“I’m not scared,” he said. “I’m the one holding the ball. It’s just playing a game.”

Those looking for a “winner” of the trade may have gone back and forth at times over the last 11 months, but both Bader and Montgomery insisted they are happy where they currently are.

“It feels like one of those that’s kind of worked out for both teams,” Boone said. “I know we’re rooting on Monty outside of Sunday from afar.”