PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla.—Justin Dunn’s transformation from reliever to starter is ongoing this spring with the Mets.
The 21-year-old righthander—the organization’s top draft pick (19th overall) last year—spent most of his Boston College career in the bullpen and is still learning the nuances of rotation life, according to assistant general manager John Ricco.
“We see his potential as a starter and it’s going to take a little bit of time,” Ricco said. “He’s just got to get innings to get comfortable in that role (and) use multiple pitches instead of being a two-pitch guy, which you can do as a reliever.”
Dunn is working to develop a changeup and two-seam fastball against lefthanded batters that can complement a fastball that peaks at 96 mph.
He appeared in 11 games (eight starts) last year at short-season Brooklyn and went 1-1, 1.50 with 35 strikeouts and 10 walks in 30 innings.
“He was in Brooklyn and we didn’t pitch him much,” Ricco said. “He pitched well, but we really babied him because he had a long college season, so we held him off. He really hasn’t pitched much. This will be a good year for him. He’s still young.”
Dunn should move “quickly” through the system, according to Ricco, based on his collegiate experience, which included helping Boston College finish within one victory of a College World Series berth. The Freeport, N.Y., native attended The Gunnery School in Washington, Conn., and was originally selected by the Dodgers in the 37th round of the 2013 draft. He opted for college.
The lanky Dunn, who stands 6-foot-2, may need to build stamina after seeing his velocity dip into the low 90s as the New York-Penn League season progressed. His slider is considered his best secondary pitch—and also the best among the organization’s minor leaguers.
“The arm strength is there, and it’s a big season for him—his first full season in pro ball as a starter,” Ricco said. “Everybody here has liked what they have seen.”
NEW YORK MINUTES
• Righthander Ben Rowen will begin the season at Triple-A Las Vegas after recording a 1.93 ERA and 0.64 WHIP in nine spring appearances. The 28-year-old submariner appeared in four games for the Brewers last season.
• Outfielder Brandon Nimmo went 10-for-21 (.476) in the Grapefruit League before returning from the World Baseball Classic (Italy) with a strained right hamstring that precluded him from consideration for the big league roster.
— Mike Puma covers the Mets for the New York Post