Met fans called it Harvey Day.
When Matt Harvey broke into the major leagues firing a fastball recorded at almost 100 miles per hour and having a swag even brassier than that, his every outing at Citi Field was an event. Thousands more Met fans moved the turnstiles in Flushing to watch the young Met pitcher work. Harvey starts famously became known as Harvey Days.
If they get with the program, Binghamton Rumble Pony fans might mimic Harvey Days with a pitching day of their own – Conlon Days. Patrick Joshua Conlon is the latest exciting Met pitching prospect. Unlike those who have pitched in Binghamton before him, guys like Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, Michael Fulmer and Robert Gsellman, P.J. Conlon is a little guy, a southpaw who stands just 5-feet, 11-inches tall on the pitching hill.
Conlon is off to a terrific start for the Rumble Ponies. Over his first three starts the Binghamton ace has worked 17.0 innings allowing just four runs. That’s good for a 2.12 earned run average.
Believe it or not, Conlon’s impressive work on the mound actually raised his career minor league ERA which now stands at a minuscule 1.53. Batters are only hitting .220 so far this year against Conlon, and the kid has a remarkable 0.88 WHIP, that’s walks and hits allowed per inning.
Like I did when each of the string of current Met starters were working their way through Binghamton, I am making it a point to try to be at NYSEG Stadium every time P.J. Conlon pitches. When this kid takes the hill it’s Conlon Day for me.
I saw Conlon start the first Rumble Pony game ever played in Binghamton last Thursday night. Conlon was terrific. The kid pitched the first five innings without allowing a run before surrendering a two-run homer to Erie Sea Wolves slugger Jason Krizan in the top of the sixth. Krizan is off to a great start this season, too, hitting an even .400 in 50 at bats with 4 home runs and 14 RBIs.
I opened my summer camp over Easter weekend and could have stayed on during the week, but made it a point to return a bit early on Tuesday night just so I could watch Conlon work again this time against Portland. The kid didn’t disappoint. Conlon worked six scoreless innings, the first 4 1/3 innings hitless.
There is a lot to like about P.J. Conlon. He’s an athletic kid who looks like he could play strong safety in the NFL. Conlon works fast and I love that trait in a pitcher. The game flies when he’s on the mound and it always seems like position players defending behind a fast working pitcher are more focused, sharper and on top of their game.
Understand, Conlon is not one of those fire breathing dragons that Met fans have come to love who can throw a baseball nearly 100 mph. The radar gun hasn’t worked yet at NYSEG Stadium, so I’m not sure how fast he’s been throwing of late, but I’ve read his fastball tops out at around 90 miles per hour. The great thing is Conlon spots his fastball rather effortlessly in and out and up and down.
But, movement is this kid’s pitching calling card. Each of Conlon’s pitches moves and has great action. That includes his fastball. He has a pitch, perhaps a slider, that runs away from a left-handed batter. Conlon has a pitch, perhaps a change-up that runs away from a right handed batter. He has the traditional 12 to 6 o’clock dropping curve, a pitch he hasn’t used all that much but a promising weapon to be sure. Then he has a pitch, perhaps a cutter, that appears to come straight towards the plate then just dies as it nearly reaches the plate.
What is impressive is Conlon’s mastery moving the ball around the zone. I’m hoping Rumble Pony baseball fans will wake up and get out to NYSEG Stadium every time P.J. Conlon pitches.
Experience has taught me that guys like Conlon don’t often stick around that long in Binghamton. You have to catch them when you can. That’s why I’ll be enjoying Conlon Days for as long as he’s pitching at NYSEG Stadium in Binghamton.