Mets acquire Pounders, add righty to bullpen

Flexen recalled from Triple-A; Citi Field hosts Pitch, Hit & Run

June 15th, 2019

NEW YORK -- Seeking any way to improve their bullpen, the Mets acquired right-handed reliever from the Indians for cash on Saturday. The Mets immediately added Pounders to their 25-man roster, putting him in uniform for Saturday’s game against the Cardinals.

Although Pounders owns a career 8.92 ERA over three big league seasons with three different teams, he posted a 2.31 ERA with 46 strikeouts in 35 innings this year for Cleveland’s Triple-A Columbus affiliate. The Mets believe a drastic increase in Pounders’ slider usage will allow him to translate that success to the Majors.

“I know what I can do,” said Pounders, who also throws a four-seam fastball and a splitter. “Obviously, I had some ups and downs in my big league career, but I’m on a good path right now. … I feel like [the slider] is a pitch that I can get ahead with and put guys away with. That’s definitely one of my strengths that I’ll continue doing.”

Upon hearing of the trade Saturday morning, Pounders took a car service from Allentown, Pa., to Citi Field, where the Mets intend to use him in a middle- or late-inning role.

“Obviously, our bullpen’s been struggling,” manager Mickey Callaway said. “We’re not going to hesitate to use him however we see fit. We understand that slider’s going to be a weapon for him. If it comes to the seventh or the eighth and we need a guy that can throw some good sliders at their hitters, we won’t hesitate to put him in there.”

“We have and will continue to look for ways to improve our bullpen,” general manager Brodie Van Wagenen added. “I don’t think it’s any surprise to this group, or to our fans, that we have lost some games here of late that we had an opportunity to win. So, we’re going to continue to look for any and all options to try to create a little more success for those last nine outs of the game.”

Roster moves

Pounders was not the only addition to New York’s bullpen. The team also recalled from Triple-A Syracuse, optioning right-hander Tyler Bashlor back to the Minors. The Mets had previously designated veteran Hector Santiago for assignment.

When the Mets last saw Flexen in early May, he was a scuffling starting pitcher. The organization recently converted him to relief work with success in a small sample. Flexen threw two scoreless innings Wednesday for Syracuse, flashing 97 mph with his fastball, which sat at 93-95 mph when he was a starter.

The Mets’ hope is that he’ll continue to demonstrate increased velocity as a reliever. While the conversion may not be permanent, the club is intrigued by what Flexen can potentially provide out of the ‘pen.

“The bottom line is Chris Flexen came up at a very young age,” Callaway said. “We love what we’ve seen this year out of his stuff -- the 96 to 97 that we’ve seen on occasion. We like the plus slider that he’s flashed. … At this point with the way our bullpen’s been going … maybe this role will be the best for him at this moment. We can always go back and try to get him to start if need be, but we’re hoping we have an impactful reliever here.”

From the trainer’s room

• Outfielder Brandon Nimmo reported to Citi Field on Saturday, a day after a fresh bout of neck stiffness caused Syracuse to scratch him from its lineup. The team’s training staff planned to examine Nimmo, who may require further tests from team doctors. Nimmo has been on the injured list since May 21 due to a bulging cervical disc in his neck.

• Second baseman Robinson Cano was also at Citi Field to test his strained left quad in front of team trainers. The Mets plan to make a decision regarding Cano on Sunday morning, when he is first eligible to return from the IL.

• Infielder Jed Lowrie, who has not played in a Major League game since signing a two-year, $20 million deal this winter, remains in a state of purgatory at the Mets’ Spring Training complex in Port St. Lucie, Fla. Lowrie is taking ground balls there, according to Van Wagenen, but is not close to returning to the Mets.

“His left side has caused him problems,” Van Wagenen said of Lowrie, who is on the IL with a strained left hamstring. “The knee to the hamstring, we want to make sure that that kinetic chain is working together with his posture and his functionality of working. We don’t want to lose any more time with him, and there’s a lot of energy putting forth to make sure when he starts to accelerate his work again, that he’ll be ready to be the Jed Lowrie that we saw the last two years in Oakland.”

Mets host Pitch, Hit & Run competition

Major League Baseball and the Mets hosted the annual MLB Pitch, Hit & Run competition at Citi Field on Saturday, honoring several youngsters who won their respective divisions.

Pitch, Hit & Run is MLB's official youth skills competition. The top 12 baseball and top 12 softball qualifiers from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut competed at Citi Field with hopes of advancing to the National Finals during 2019 MLB All-Star Week in Cleveland.

Here are the winners:

The 7- and 8-year-old Softball Division: Julia Leavy from Fairfield, Conn.

The 7- and 8-year-old Baseball Division: Miles Senior from Larchmont, N.Y.

The 9- and 10-year-old Softball Division: Adalyn Tham from Sovona, N.Y.

The 9- and 10-year-old Baseball Division: Anthony Marsico from Blauvelt, N.Y.

The 11- and 12-year-old Softball Division: Una O'Donnell from White Plains, N.Y.

The 11- and 12-year-old Baseball Division: Justice Crooks from Bath, N.Y.

The 13- and 14-year-old Softball Division: Elena Ohe from Fairfield, Conn.

The 13- and 14-year-old Baseball Division: Johnathan Smuda from Gowanda, N.Y.