NEW YORK -- At around 10:30 a.m. ET on Tuesday, Gerson Bautista received the call he had been seeking for years, but he didn't quite expect so soon. Bautista was told to pack his bags in New Hampshire, where the Mets' Double-A Binghamton affiliate was playing, and head to the
NEW YORK -- At around 10:30 a.m. ET on Tuesday, Gerson Bautista received the call he had been seeking for years, but he didn't quite expect so soon. Bautista was told to pack his bags in New Hampshire, where the Mets' Double-A Binghamton affiliate was playing, and head to the airport for a short flight to Queens. Their bullpen taxed from Monday's 8-6 loss to the Nationals, the Mets wanted a fresh arm in Flushing in time for Tuesday's rematch.
"I'm really, really happy because this is the dream come true," Bautista said through an interpreter. "This is what I've been expecting my whole career, and I'm really happy."
One of three pitchers the Mets acquired for reliever Addison Reed last July, Bautista opened eyes this spring with a fastball that sat in the upper 90s. He topped out at 101 mph last season, though he attributes his early success at Binghamton -- 11 strikeouts in five shutout innings -- more to his ability to get ahead in counts. Catcher Tomas Nido, who spent the early part of this season with Bautista at Binghamton, credited an improved slider and changeup for the right-hander's success.
"He sure does have good command of his other pitches," Nido said. "He throws the ball hard as it is. So when he mixes those other pitches in around the zone, it makes him that much more effective."
Debuting later Tuesday, however, Bautista threw 18 fastballs and just one slider, topping out at 98 mph. He worked around a leadoff double and a one-out walk to pitch a scoreless ninth in the 5-2 loss.
"Bautista's been really, really good in the Minor Leagues -- I think very similar to what we saw in Spring Training, or maybe even a little bit better," Mets manager Mickey Callaway said. "We saw him throwing the ball over the plate with crisp stuff, a plus slider, plus velo obviously, and he was getting outs. So we're really excited that we get to see him here."
That the Mets called up Bautista and optioned Hansel Robles to Triple-A was mostly an indication of how they are managing their bullpen this season. The Mets are using optionable relievers to their advantage, giving them flexibility when any one arm shows signs of fatigue. Because Robles had pitched in three consecutive games and was unlikely to be available before Thursday, the Mets chose to ship him out in favor of a fresh arm, despite his success.
"He probably didn't deserve to go down," Callaway said. "It's the business side of things, so that was a tough conversation to have with him."
Jason Vargas is ready to enter the final phase of his rehab from right hand surgery. Striking out 12 batters over six no-hit innings in a Minor League intrasquad game on Tuesday, the left-hander is prepared to begin a Minor League rehab assignment on Sunday. That will mark the first time he fields his position in a game; in all of his simulated and intrasquad games, Vargas pitched from behind an L screen.
If Vargas comes out of the rehab start without issue, he could return from the disabled list as soon as April 27 in San Diego -- five and a half weeks post-surgery.
Friends of Wilmer
About 90 minutes before the start of Tuesday's game, Wilmer Flores greeted 14 foster children from the El Puente program in Brooklyn as part of his "Friends of Flores" charity program. Flores signed shirts and other gear for the children, who received tickets to the game and a Friends of Flores t-shirt, among other goodies.
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo, Instagram and Facebook.