The journeyman pitcher who shows how the Mets deftly handle their first-place roster

featured image

Rob Zastryzny is a name you probably have already forgotten. He entered in the seventh inning of the nightcap of the Mets’ doubleheader Saturday in Philadelphia. The 30-year-old lefty recorded two outs to strand an inherited baserunner, then returned for the eighth, in which he struck out Nick Maton and surrendered a triple to Kyle Schwarber, prompting Buck Showalter to make a pitching change.

A day later, he was gone, his job apparently completed. The Mets received three outs and moved on to the next arm, who they hoped could do the same. Here is the story behind the Mets and Zastryzny earning those three outs, which helps explain how the club has been so good on the margins this season:

Zastryzny, a second-round draft pick in 2013, debuted in 2016 with the Cubs. He bounced between the majors and minors for three seasons, recording a 4.41 ERA in 18 big league games, primarily out of the bullpen. He was released in 2019 and latched on with the Dodgers, with whom he spent the season in the minors. In 2020, he was at the Orioles’ alternate site, but required an elbow surgery that left him uncertain he would reach the majors again.

Zastryzny worked with a personal pitching coach in Austin, Texas, and had agreed to a deal to join the independent Long Island Ducks before the Marlins called in 2021. He spent last year in Miami’s system and caught the attention of the Mets, who believed in his slider and signed him in November.

“When I signed here, [pitching coach Jeremy Hefner] said: ‘You need more horizontal [movement] on your slider. This is how we think you do it,’” Zastryzny told Post Sports+ recently. “They gave me a couple months to do it, and it worked.”

Rob Zastryzny got three outs for the Mets against the Phillies last Saturday before Kyle Schwarber ended his night with a triple.
Screengrab via

Zastryzny pitched in 26 games with Triple-A Syracuse before the Mets — during a stretch of 27 games in 26 days and facing the prospect of a doubleheader against the Phillies — called up the southpaw.

“I came in and they were like, ‘Help us win games,’” said Zastryzny, who pitched in a loss, but helped cover an inning.

A day later, he looked around the Mets clubhouse and quietly talked with fellow reliever Tommy Hunter. The veteran told him to proceed as if he were a member of the team; unless the Mets told him he had been cut, he belonged in a Mets uniform.

Shortly before their game Sunday, about 14 hours after he pitched, the Mets broke the news to Zastryzny, who was optioned back to Syracuse. By Monday, he was designated for assignment, enabling the Mets to continue the cycle by calling up a fresh pitcher in Connor Grey.

Zastryzny had spent four grueling years trying to reach the majors again. The Mets spent about nine months working with him, continually tweaking his slider to the point it could get major leaguers out.

And then he was shown the door after three outs.

Nate Fisher was another pitcher who was one-and-done for the Mets with an outing out of a depleted bullpen.
Getty Images

The non-stop churn of the 2022 Mets has been at times heartwarming – the embrace of Zastryzny and Nate Fisher, the former banker – and at times sad – the ensuing farewells to Zastryzny and Fisher (who ended up clearing waivers and will return to Triple-A). At virtually all times, though, it has been impressively deft. The Mets, during the Billy Eppler regime, have been prepared for each moment, finding help under a rock before overturning another rock. Zastryzny’s brief comeback is both remarkable and nearly commonplace for the club.

The Mets, despite a relatively healthy season, have used 56 players. The only teams that had churned through more players, entering play Thursday, were the Pirates (60), Reds (58), Angels (58), Cubs (57) and Mariners (57). That’s four deadline sellers that naturally have had to employ more players and a wild-card contender in Seattle.

At Citizens Bank Park last weekend, the Mets debuted Zastryzny, Fisher and Sam Clay, who also was then DFA’d. They activated Yolmer Sanchez, a former Gold Glover, to ensure they were covered at shortstop behind Francisco Lindor. Jose Butto, too, was called up for his first major league game, and put the Mets in two holes that they climbed out of Sunday.

“That was an organizational effort,” Showalter said after the ReplaceMets took three of four from the Phillies.

GM Billy Eppler deserves credit for having depth players in reserve when the Mets have needed to churn the roster.
Tom DiPace

Good teams — the Mets are 80-46 after beating the Rockies on Thursday night on another Jacob deGrom gem — find contributions from everywhere, which is an axiom that has never been more true than this season. Previously, teams could option players repeatedly. This year, a team can only send a player back to the minors a maximum of five times. So the Mets have not been able to repeatedly shuttle Stephen Nogosek, Yoan Lopez and Adonis Medina, three relievers on the 40-man roster whom they like. Because the Mets have had to be selective in bringing up those arms from Syracuse, they have had to tap further-down depth, such as R.J. Alvarez, Clay, Fisher and Zastryzny.

Part of the reason for the tremendous churn is the underbelly of the bullpen, which perhaps should have been better solidified at the trade deadline, and part of the reason is Eppler has been extraordinarily active to ensure the Mets are covered in each area and are not blowing out bullpen arms. The more innings from Zastryzny, Fisher and Clay, the fewer from Edwin Diaz, Adam Ottavino and Seth Lugo.

“Everybody’s proud of the people that come up through their system,” Showalter said Tuesday, speaking specifically about Brett Baty but also speaking about the many players the Mets have tried this season. “You think about scouting, you think about player development people, you think about the parents. You think about all the things that went into getting to this point.

“It’s actually easier, I think in some ways, to get here than it is to stay here.”

Zastryzny got there, but did not stay there — with the Mets, at least. The Angels claimed him off waivers Thursday, so he will remain on a 40-man roster. He is a great example of how modern-day baseball works, both in his position on the periphery of 40-man rosters and how he reinvented himself to reach that position.

Before his Mets inning, Rob Zastryzny last appeared in the major leagues with the Cubs in 2018.
Getty Images

The Mets told him exactly what he needed to do to retire big-league hitters. They wanted him to toy with his slider to find the right amount of break, and high-tech equipment such as Rapsodos provided a tangible way to measure his stuff.

“When I was with the Cubs — I love the organization and they’re great — but it was like: ‘Your stuff isn’t as good as it used to be,’” Zastryzny remembered. “And they’re like: ‘You need to get it better.’ … But there wasn’t a lot of information.

“Then you throw a bullpen [session], and it’s like, ‘I think it was better?’”

This year, Zastryzny could throw a bullpen session and see the vertical break on his fastball was too low. And he could begin tweaking the pitch to find better results.

“OK, what do I do for the next time to make that adjustment?” Zastryzny said. “So my next two days of catches I can work on getting my hand out front or I can work on pulling the seam down a little bit or whatever it is. So now if you’re not doing something well, you know what it is. You know how to fix it.”

The art became a science, and Zastryzny and the Mets used the data to turn him into a pitcher who could help. And then the Mets moved on to their next experiment.

Today’s back page

New York Post

Tennis legends of the fall

The brackets were announced for the US Open women’s and men’s singles events Thursday. We now know who and when Serena Williams will play in what is expected to be the last tournament of her career, and we know Novak Djokovic will not play in an increasingly strange portion of his career.

All eyes will be on Serena Williams in the first round of what’s expected to be her final U.S. Open.

Williams, who announced this month she is preparing to leave the game, will face Montenegro’s Danka Kovinic for the first time to open her 21st US Open on Monday.

If the unseeded legend wins, she likely would take on No. 2 seed Anett Kontaveit of Estonia in the second round.

Djokovic, the former world No. 1, will be missing because he legally cannot get to Flushing. The unvaccinated star can’t enter the country because of the government’s vaccination policy for non-citizens. The Wimbledon champion cannot compete in the US Open.

“Sadly, I will not be able to travel to NY this time for US Open,” Djokovic tweeted. “Thank you #NoleFam for your messages of love and support. ❤️ Good luck to my fellow players! I’ll keep in good shape and positive spirit and wait for an opportunity to compete again. 💪🏼 See you soon tennis world!”

Flight pattern of Jets’ Class of 2020

Denzel Mims has requested a trade from the Jets, acknowledging what the team apparently wouldn’t: This is not going to work.

The wide receiver has been buried on the depth chart this summer, just as he was buried last year. The 2020 second-round pick was a Joe Douglas selection who saw some time with Adam Gase — catching 23 passes for 357 yards — and clearly has not been loved by the Robert Saleh regime.

Denzel Mims, buried on the Jets depth chart at wide receiver going into his third season, wants out.
Getty Images

“It’s just time,” Mims’ agent said in a statement to The Post’s Brian Costello. “Denzel has tried in good faith but it is clear he does not have a future with the Jets. Denzel vowed to come back better than ever this season and he worked extremely hard in the offseason to make that happen. Still, he has been given no opportunities with the starting offense to get into a groove with them. We feel at this point a trade is our only option, since the Jets have repeatedly told us they will not release him. Joe Douglas has always done right by Denzel and we trust that he will do everything in his power to find another team where Denzel can be a contributor.”

If Mims becomes a contributor – for another team – it would be a rarity for a 2020 Jets draft pick.

A rundown of the 2020 class:

OT Mekhi Becton, 1st round: Out for the season; played one game last year.

WR Denzel Mims, 2nd round: Has made no impact and now wants out.

FS Ashtyn Davis, 3rd round: A non-factor

DE Jabari Zuniga, 3rd round: One sack in two seasons

RB La’Mical Perine, 4th round: A non-factor

QB James Morgan, 4th round: A free agent

OT Cameron Clark, 4th round: Retired

CB Bryce Hall, 5th round: A fine depth option who has been asked to do more

P Braden Mann, 6th round: Fine

Read More

Share on Google Plus
    Blogger Comment
    Facebook Comment


Post a Comment