Yamamoto turning heads in rotation race

March 14th, 2021

's fate this spring isn't completely dependent on whether Carlos Carrasco will be able to start the regular season on time, but it can't hurt to turn in good outings in the interim, while the Mets figure out the personnel decisions.

Carrasco is slated to play catch on Sunday, a positive development after the team announced a few days earlier that the right-hander was experiencing right elbow soreness. A healthy Carrasco would make a loaded rotation even more impenetrable, but regardless, the Mets will need reinforcements. That's where pitchers such as Yamamoto can help. Strong springs leave lasting impressions, and so far, he's doing what's necessary to leave his mark.

In his start against the Nationals on Saturday, Yamamoto worked through a rocky first that included an RBI double by Josh Bell to hold the Nats scoreless through the remainder of his 3 1/3 innings. He has a 1.08 ERA over three outings this spring.

"I'm just having conviction," Yamamoto said following the Mets’ 4-3 loss to the Nationals. "That's the main thing that we were working on that we've been talking about, just conviction with all my pitches, being able to throw it in any count, just getting ahead of hitters and making them get in swing mode. Everything and anything that makes me who I am is what I did tonight."

The energetic Yamamoto is still very new to the Mets' organization after coming over from the Marlins in a Feb. 1 trade, so they're all still in the getting-to-know-you stage. Prior to Saturday’s game, manager Luis Rojas praised the 24-year-old right-hander for his sturdy repertoire of pitches, noting that the one knock on Yamamoto might be his tendency to over-pitch at times. Rojas noted progress in that area after the game.

“We talked a little bit before the game about sticking to his strengths a little more and then introducing some pitches,” Rojas said. “I thought that's what he did today. He liked his fastball, you could see it, and he was getting good results from it. He threw the ball well. Good rhythm. He located well.”

Yamamoto may get squeezed when the Mets have to set their roster at the end of the month, but no team gets through a full season with the same rotation it started with. That may be exacerbated even more this year, given pitchers are jumping from a 60-game season to a full 162-game slate, and that can cause issues. Depth will be tested, and the Mets, if unsure about Carrasco’s status, may have to dip into it earlier than expected.

Yamamoto will be ready.

“I'm still out there to prove that that I belong in the big leagues, that I don't want to want to go anyplace else,” he said. “I've had that little bit of time of going up and down and I did not like that. You get the taste of it and you want to stay. that's where I want to stay -- in the big leagues.”

Outfield depth
Three-team trades are confusing enough without the added element of social media. But when you add the dizzying pace through which news travels these days, it’s that much more challenging to keep up with who’s going where -- and getting it right.

Mets No. 7 prospect heard that the Royals had made a transaction involving him the same way most people hear about sports transactions -- through social media, a medium that often beats baseball executives to the punch when they need to deliver news to their players.

“It was kind of new for me,” Lee said with a slight grin while addressing reporters before Saturday’s game. "I didn't understand what was going on.”

He was soon contacted by Royals assistant GM J.J. Picollo and his agent, who helped him sort through the confusion. It wasn’t long before Lee had the lowdown -- he was headed to the Mets, not the Red Sox, even though Andrew Benintendi, the centerpiece of this deal, was going to the Royals.

Lee had just been added to the Royals’ 40-man roster ahead from last November’s Rule 5 deadline, and the outfielder was considered to be on the cusp of cracking Kansas City’s Opening Day roster. His pathway to the big leagues with the Mets, a deeper team that is not in a Royals-like rebuild, may not be as direct, but the speedy outfielder is looking forward to impressing his new club.

“Coming in now with the Mets, I’m just looking forward to continuing to showcase my talents and help the team as much as I can, wherever I'm needed,” Lee said. “Continue to play hard and do the things that I can control.”

Up next
The Mets will host the Cardinals on Sunday beginning at 1:10 p.m. ET. Left-hander David Peterson is slated to start, while the Cardinals will counter with starting right-hander Carlos Martínez.

Right-hander Taijuan Walker is also expected to pitch in a “B” game in Port St. Lucie on Sunday.