Mets notes: Tough call in bullpen, Tylor Megill makes rotation, Christian Scott impresses

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PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Many teams need to make hard decisions soon regarding a final reliever spot or two, but the New York Mets’ bullpen situation appears extra compelling.

Unlike some other teams, the Mets must decide on two spots between four relievers who cannot be optioned to the minor leagues. The pitchers in the running all are right-handers: Sean Reid-Foley, Michael Tonkin, Yohan Ramírez and Phil Bickford. The Mets face the risk of another team being able to scoop up whichever relievers don’t make the cut; each would have to clear waivers to remain with New York if they aren’t on the major-league roster.

With only a few spring training games left, Reid-Foley is a top contender for one of the spots, people familiar with the club’s thinking said. However, Reid-Foley first needs to be healthy. After dealing with a recent biceps issue, he is scheduled to pitch in a game on Thursday. In four appearances (four innings), Reid-Foley became a favorite of some rival scouts this spring; he has allowed just one walk with seven strikeouts.

If Reid-Foley shows he’s healthy and indeed secures a job, then that would leave one spot up for grabs.

People within the Mets could be viewing the situation as a case of experience (Tonkin) versus stuff (Ramírez). Tonkin, 34, looked dependable in a multi-inning role for the Atlanta Braves in 2023, logging a 4.28 ERA and 104 ERA+ with 75 strikeouts in 45 games (80 innings). The Mets signed Tonkin to a split contract, and he has long seemed like a sensible choice to fill out the bullpen. But Ramírez, whom the Mets acquired in December from the Chicago White Sox for cash, has stood out to scouts, who have been particularly impressed with his sinker. Like Tonkin, Ramírez, 28, hasn’t allowed a run in spring training.

Given the Mets’ expectations — making the playoffs qualifies as a good season, team officials have said — might it be better to go with the pitcher with the most attractive upside? Or does proven production for a good team last year matter more when the margin for a playoff spot may be thin?

Time remains before the Mets must make their decisions. If Reid-Foley ends up not being ready, then that would further open the door for the Mets to carry both Tonkin and Ramírez — or they can turn to someone like Bickford. Bickford may find himself on the outside looking in because others have outperformed him and have shown either sharper stuff or better velocity. However, Bickford has pitched better lately and was up to 93 mph on Wednesday during a scoreless inning, making the decision tougher.

Shintaro Fujinami lingers as another candidate, but unlike the others, he holds minor-league options.

Edwin Díaz, Adam Ottavino, Brooks Raley, Jake Diekman, Drew Smith and Jorge López are locked into the bullpen on major-league contracts.

In a different decision that manager Carlos Mendoza referred to as “tough,” Tylor Megill claimed the final spot in the rotation. An opening emerged after New York shut down Kodai Senga because of a strain in the back of his shoulder (Senga has yet to resume throwing). Since Senga first experienced the issue a few weeks ago, Megill loomed as the likely replacement, but José Buttó made things slightly more interesting with a strong showing.

Mendoza said the Mets decided on Megill because of his experience and how he showed up to camp. Megill arrived ready to throw live bullpens, which meant he was ahead of schedule. Club evaluators also liked Megill’s new splitter and how, over time, he pitched more aggressively in the strike zone — the latter will be a major key for Megill once the regular season begins.

Despite optioning Buttó to Triple A on Wednesday, the Mets expect to see him in the majors relatively soon. The Mets have eyed mid-April as a potential time for a sixth starter. Mendoza said he expects Buttó will be one of the first names on the list of potential promotions, depending on other roster issues. Given their bullpen situation, it’ll be interesting to see how they open up a spot if everyone stays healthy and productive. Buttó posted a 3.29 ERA in five starts last September, and he carried that strong performance over to the spring, where he showcased command of a diverse mix of pitches that includes a cutter, slider, curveball and changeup.

“He’s going to pitch a lot of innings, and he’s going to give us quality innings,” Mendoza said. “It’s important. We’ve been talking about our depth. Now, here we are, we are sending (down) a kid, who has done pretty much everything we’ve asked him to do.”

In another bit of expected news, Mendoza announced Luis Severino will start the Mets’ second game of the season.

Severino has continued to show signs of resembling the guy who excelled for the New York Yankees when healthy from 2015-22, before posting an ugly 6.65 ERA while dealing with injuries last season.

In a recent outing on one of the Mets’ back fields, per club evaluators, Severino maintained 97 mph with his fastball after surpassing 80 pitches.

At one point during Mets prospect Christian Scott’s start on Wednesday, Miami Marlins utility man Nick Gordon asked teammates a question: “Does he have a Cy Young yet?”

Told that Scott has yet to pitch in a major-league game, Gordon quipped, “Man, looks the Cy Young to me.”

Scott — most prospect lists rank him as the Mets’ best arm in the farm system — hasn’t even pitched in Triple A.

“His fastball has some life,” Gordon said. “He’s got a bright future.”

Scott looked sharp in a four-inning outing that turned some heads. He allowed just one run and two hits (no walks). He recorded seven strikeouts: Jon Berti (twice), Vidal Brujan (twice), Dane Myers, Trey Mancini and Gordon.

Scott located his fastball high in the zone well before finishing off some batters with a hard slider low that he used in and out of the strike zone.

“The fastball, it’s low release with ride and velo; it plays up and we saw it today with the way he was attacking hitters,” Mendoza said. “They were having a hard time picking it up. You’ve heard a lot about this kid, but watching him go about it today and the way he threw the baseball, it was special, it was exciting.”

It wouldn’t be surprising to see Scot debut at some point in 2024, though the Mets have other prospects they can consider such as Dom Hamel and Mike Vasil. Regardless of when the Mets give him a shot, it was important for Scott to gain experience against a lineup featuring mostly regulars, Mendoza said.

“Overall,” Mendoza said, “pretty impressive.”

(Photo of Sean Reid-Foley: Jim Rassol / USA Today)

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