Mets Find Surprise Pitching Depth With Schwinden





NEW YORK—Among Mets pitching prospects, power righthanders Matt Harvey and Jeurys Familia garner most of the attention, and with good reason. The former went seventh overall in the 2010 draft, while the latter can throw 100 mph.

But both Harvey and Familia are at least a year away from contributing in New York. What happens if the Mets need to call on an emergency starter in the interim?

Big league manager Terry Collins has one name in mind: Triple-A Buffalo righthander Chris Schwinden.

The 24-year-old began the season as an extra reliever with Double-A Binghamton, penciled in as a spot starter. A 22nd-round pick from Fresno Pacific in 2008, Schwinden had spent his entire professional career prior to this season filling gaps, working mostly as a starter (43 times) but also as the occasional reliever (18).

After logging two scoreless relief appearances for Binghamton to start the season, Schwinden got his lucky break. The Mets promoted him to Buffalo on April 16 to take the rotation spot vacated by Pat Misch, who had been summoned to the big leagues.

Schwinden responded with five one-run innings for the Bisons, and he continued to pitch so well that he did not relinquish his rotation spot when Misch returned. Through 13 starts, Schwinden went 4-3, 3.05 with 60 strikeouts and 28 walks in 74 innings. He ranked ninth in the International League ERA race and fifth with a .223 opponent average.

"He's been a pleasurable surprise to this point," minor league pitching coordinator Rick Tomlin said in May. "Here's a guy we can point to as a blueprint for commanding the fastball. He commands it to both sides of the plate; he moves the ball back and forth; he commands the changeup.

"He's not overpowering, and it's not the greatest stuff in the world. But these types of success stories reinforce things about fastball command that we're trying to get through to our pitchers. We want them to think, 'If I command the fastball, then I can be successful.' "

The Mets already can point to such a success story on the big league staff. Righthander Dillon Gee, himself a 21st-round draft pick, won seven of his first eight decisions for the Mets this season while putting up a 3.21 ERA.

METAMORPHOSES

• The Mets promoted Harvey to Double-A following the high Class A Florida State League all-star game. He went 8-2, 2.37 in 14 starts for St. Lucie and led the league with 92 strikeouts.

• An FSL all-star like Harvey, center fielder Matt den Dekker also earned a promotion to Binghamton. A fifth-round pick in 2010, den Dekker batted .296/.362/.494 in 267 at-bats, chipping in six homers, 19 doubles and eight triples.