Notes: Gilliam added; Matz's improved curve

July 8th, 2020

NEW YORK -- The Mets shuffled the back end of their bullpen mix on Wednesday, adding rookie strikeout artist to their 60-man player pool after losing fellow right-hander Jacob Rhame to a waiver claim.

Minutes after the Angels claimed Rhame off waivers, the Mets filled his spot with Gilliam. That brought their pool back up to 51 players, leaving nine slots for them to continue adding between now and Opening Day.

Rhame was out of Minor League options, meaning the Mets would have needed to designate him for assignment if he did not make their 30-man Opening Day roster. Instead, they exposed him to waivers a week and a half after adding him to their 60-man. Sources noted that multiple teams had interest in claiming Rhame, who underwent ulnar nerve transposition surgery last summer. He pitched one inning Saturday during a simulated game at Citi Field.

Gilliam, the Mets’ No. 27 prospect per MLB Pipeline, was the club’s fifth-round Draft pick in 2018. Although the 23-year-old is not an ultra-hard thrower, Gilliam has struck out 14 batters per nine innings over 54 Minor League innings to date. He began last season at Class A St. Lucie, before promotions to Double-A Binghamton and finally Triple-A Syracuse; in sum, Gilliam posted a 6.05 ERA last season. He also appeared in the Arizona Fall League, striking out 11 batters in 9 1/3 innings with a 0.96 ERA, and he made four appearances during Spring Training for the big league club.

"Ryley is a great competitor with late-inning stuff," said general manager Brodie Van Wagenen in a text message. "We are excited about him and believe he can add depth and upside to our player pool."

Orange vs. blue
The Mets held their first intrasquad game on Tuesday, with “Team Orange” matching “Team Blue” in a 0-0 tie for 2 1/2 innings. The highlight was left-hander Justin Wilson, who struck out the side in the top of the second. Dellin Betances and Jeurys Familia each threw a perfect inning.

Who’s on first?
After completing his regular outfield work on Wednesday morning, grabbed a first baseman’s mitt -- a gift from Pete Alonso -- and trotted over to that position, where he took throws and ground balls before retiring to the clubhouse.

Although Céspedes has worked at first base before games in the past, manager Luis Rojas said that Wednesday was just Céspedes having fun. The Mets did not ask him to work at first, nor do they plan to use him there during the season. Instead, Céspedes is in line to receive significant at-bats at designated hitter, as well as perhaps left field.

“He wants to show you that he’s really good everywhere,” Rojas said. “I think he’s played every position in the book. We’ve definitely had conversations about it, but nothing serious yet.”

New and improved
Besides Céspedes, perhaps no Met has impressed early onlookers in Summer Camp as much as , whose rotation spot essentially became guaranteed when Noah Syndergaard underwent Tommy John surgery in March. Matz spent his quarantine working on various new curveball grips, with an eye toward making the pitch more of a weapon.


At home in Nashville, Tenn., Matz threw a four-inning simulated game once per week against a group of big league hitters that included James McCann, Logan Forsythe, Bryan Reynolds, Phil Gosselin and Adam Duvall. His goals during those sessions were two-fold: to keep his arm in shape, but also to work on throwing his curveball with different shapes and speeds.

Matz threw his curveball just 14.9 percent of the time last season, the lowest rate of his career.

“I really was just able to tinker with a lot of different grips,” said Matz, the lone left-hander in New York’s rotation. “All that just gave me a better feel for what I was doing out there, and I think that’s the biggest thing is having that comfortable feel on the mound.”

Spending his quarantine in the Tampa, Fla., area, shortstop had a unique living arrangement, sharing a home with Tigers infielder Willi Castro. The two have known each other since 2012 and became brothers-in-law when Castro married Rosario’s sister, Aniana. Rosario is now an uncle to their daughter.

“Me and Willy have a tremendous relationship,” Rosario said. “He really is like a brother to me.”

Camp delays
Mets relievers and have yet to participate in Summer Camp workouts at Citi Field. The team acknowledged both absences but did not provide a reason.