Let’s face it, aside from the very expected solid performances by Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom, the rest of the rotation behind those two stalwarts has been questionable and troubling to put it mildly. I guess I was being naive when I so matter of factly wrote, “all the Mets need to win ninety or more games is for one of Steven Matz, Matt Harvey or Zack Wheeler to pitch at or beyond their expectations.” Easier said than done.
With Harvey already demoted to the bullpen, Wheeler as inconsistent as ever, and Matz unsure if he’ll be making his next start which manager Mickey Callaway refused to confirm, things are as unsettled as you can get, and ironically it’s all due to under-performance issues and not a rash of injury concerns.
But amid the muck and mire that will have to be sorted out by Callaway and pitching coach Dave Eiland, there was a bright spot in Wednesday night’s 9-1 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals as right-hander Corey Oswalt finally made his MLB debut after two call-ups, and did so in spectacular fashion.
Oswalt, 24, was called upon with the bases loaded in the fourth in relief of Matz and quickly induced three ground balls to end the inning, a specialty for him. Oswalt went on to pitch 4.2 solid innings, his only blemish a two-run homer to Jedd Gyorko, striking out four batters and not issuing any walks.
In the process, Oswalt saved the Mets bullpen and impressed his manager with his command and cool composure on the mound. He retired 12 of the final 14 batters he faced. “He was fearless,” Callaway said. “He did what we talk about, he went out and attacked.”
An elated Oswalt couldn’t contain his excitement after the game. “It was honestly one of the best experiences of my life. I was pretty amped going in there. But yeah, I enjoyed it.” He plans to give the game ball to his parents when the Mets travel to his hometown San Diego this weekend to play the Padres.
No stranger to prospect hounds, Oswalt had a tremendous campaign in 2017 and earned himself the Sterling Award as the Mets Minor League Pitcher of the Year.
Selected in the seventh-round of the 2012 Amateur Draft, Oswalt went 12-5 last season, with a 2.28 ERA and 1.181 WHIP in 24 starts with Double-A Binghamton and was named the Eastern League’s Pitcher of the Year. His ERA led the league among qualified pitchers and was the lowest for any qualified starter at the Double-A level.
Oswalt throws a heavy fastball that can reach 95-96 MPH but sits mostly 91-93 and he has a solid history of keeping the ball in the park. He repertoire also features a curveball, changeup, and a sweeping slider that misses a lot of bats.
Added to the 40-man roster following the 2017 season, Oswalt participated in his first Major League Spring Training this past spring and appeared in four games, all out of the bullpen. He posted a 2.84 ERA (two earned runs/6.1 innings) with five strikeouts and no walks in his four Grapefruit League appearances.
The Mets will have a lot of decisions to make regarding their rotation over the next few days, and perhaps a performance like Oswalt’s can tempt the team to slide Robert Gsellman or Seth Lugo into the starting rotation. We’ll see what happens moving forward, but it was nice to see the kid break into the majors as solidly as he did. Congrats Corey….