PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla.—Righthander Eddie Kunz had his opportunity, a moment when he could have jumpstarted his career.
On Aug. 3, 2008, the Mets called up their 2007 supplemental first-round pick from Double-A Binghamton to help cover for injuries and inconsistency in a depleted bullpen. Kunz became the third-fastest player from his draft to make the big leagues.
But he struggled. He fought his control. He struggled with jitters.
And then the Mets demoted Kunz after four games and a 13.50 ERA, and he hasn't been back up to New York since. The Mets have even ignored him when making September callups.
Now Kunz, who had been a reliever since he arrived at Oregon State, will join the rotation for Binghamton.
"There are a number of reasons (for the switch)," director of minor league operations Adam Wogan said. "We just want him to get innings, to get an opportunity to work on fastball command.
"We'd like him to be able to work consistently without worrying about coming into a situation with runners on base or trying to figure out when his spot (in the batting order) is going to come around.
"Starting, he'll get work. That's the most important part to getting him back to where he needs to be."
The move was expected to be a temporary one, with the Mets believing that Kunz's future remains in the bullpen. The 6-foot-6 sinkerballer appeared in 40 games for Triple-A Buffalo last season, in which time righthanders hit just .199 against him in 141 at-bats. Overall, he ran up a 5.02 ERA with a pedestrian 38-to-31 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Kunz arrived in camp this season having dropped nearly 20 pounds from his listed weight of 260. Now, the Mets hope that the move to the rotation will allow him to get the work he needs to refine his pitches.
"He'll determine how long he starts with how he progresses," Wogan said. "As he shows progress and improvement he'll dictate that."
• General manager Omar Minaya praised low Class A Savannah righthander Armando Rodriguez, 22, hinting that he could be a fast riser along the lines of Jenrry Mejia.
• Lefthander Steve Matz threw his first bullpen session as spring camp wound down, and the Mets' top draft pick from 2009 was expected to make his pro debut in the Gulf Coast League in June. After experiencing weakness in his shoulder last year, Matz worked extensively with rehab coordinator Chris Correnti all spring.