Lefthander Nathan Lavender left an impression on Mets officials during spring training and then needed just seven appearances at Double-A Binghamton to receive a promotion.
The 23-year-old reliever joined Triple-A Syracuse on May 2 after pitching to a 1.74 ERA over 10.1 innings with 19 strikeouts during his stint in the Eastern League, where he recorded four saves.
The Hudson, Ill., native was the organization’s 14th-round pick in 2021 out of Illinois.
Lavender throws his fastball in the 91-93 mph range and relies on his slider.
“He’s a guy who has a lot of deception, so his stuff plays up,” Mets farm director Kevin Howard said. “He is just not scared. He attacks hitters and has that kind of polish that we just felt moving him up quick, because I don’t think he will be intimidated.”
Lavender split last season between Low-A St. Lucie and High-A Brooklyn and pitched to a 1.26 ERA in 26 appearances overall, with 67 strikeouts in 47.2 innings. That success earned him a look in the Grapefruit League, where he did not allow a run in five appearances.
Lavender’s equal success against lefthanded and righthanded batters is appealing to team officials. In his stint at Binghamton, lefties hit .167 against him. Righties hit .125.
The Mets, like most teams, have a need for lefty relief. With Brooks Raley’s recent placement on the injured list, the team has been without a lefthanded reliever.
That could place Lavender on a fast track to New York if he thrives at Syracuse, but Howard wouldn’t be surprised if an adjustment period is needed.
“It’s too tough to tell right now,” Howard said. “That Triple-A league is a tough one to pitch in. He’s only 23 years old. I think he’s going to be challenged, and how he does with that challenge will kind of tell us a lot.
“He wouldn’t be there if we didn’t feel there’s a chance he could do it, but he’s going to have to go out there and prove it.”