Two starts into his career, something about Tylor Megill has already stood out to Mets catcher James McCann: He’s a “slow heartbeat guy.”
“Even warming up for his first big league start, there was no panic,” McCann explained. “There was no stressing on his part. Almost a 'too-cool-for-school-type attitude,' but then he gets on the mound and he competes. It’s not a lazy thing. It’s just a slow heartbeat. There’s no situation too big for him.”
How’s this for a big situation? After a month in Double-A and half a month in Triple-A, Megill, the club's No. 21 prospect, finds himself in good shape to hold a rotation spot in the Majors.
Of course, his opportunity was born out of unfortunate circumstances for other would-be Mets starters: Noah Syndergaard and Carlos Carrasco are both out for at least another month, while Jordan Yamamoto’s timeline to return is unclear and Joey Lucchesi will miss the rest of the season due to Tommy John surgery.
Those injuries paved a way for Megill to at least compete for a rotation spot with Jerad Eickhoff. But on Tuesday, after a two-start audition, Eickhoff was designated for assignment. Frankly, there aren’t many roadblocks remaining for Megill to keep the role.
“We were in the need of a starter, right?” Mets manager Luis Rojas said. “We’ve had a couple of starters already come up, and we had a couple of guys that got hurt. Everything (indicated) that it was his time to come up because of how he was performing, and our need. And now he’s here, and he’s performing here. So, he’s in our rotation. There’s no other thing that we can say right now.”
Through two MLB starts, Megill has given the Mets what they’ve needed: A healthy body eating competitive innings. His five earned runs over 9 1/3 innings can be distilled down to a pair of fifth-inning homers, one in each outing. But he also has 12 strikeouts, with plenty more whiffs mixed in, which has shown the Mets that his stuff plays on this stage.
Among his 14 swings-and-misses against the Braves on Tuesday, Megill fanned reigning National League MVP Freddie Freeman twice, and one of those strikeouts ended on a changeup through the heart of the plate.
“To get a swing-and-miss from Freddie Freeman in-zone a couple times, that’s really hard to do,” Rojas said. “His pitches are effective, he throws strikes and he’s got good poise. He’s in our rotation and I think he came to us as a blessing right now.”
The poise, which Rojas referred to as “pure ice through his veins” on Tuesday, continues to swell for Megill. It’s one thing to post a 13.2 strikeouts-per-nine rate in the Minors, as he did over eight starts before his call-up. It’s quite another thing to see one’s stuff baffle hitters at the game’s highest level.
“Being able to see it firsthand should give you all the confidence that your stuff’s good, and you should be fearless when you’re throwing all your stuff,” Megill said. “You’re here for a reason, trust your stuff and, you know, go after it.”
Megill is expected to go after it again on Sunday in the Subway Series. After that? We can’t know for sure, but so far the rookie is justifying the opportunity he’s been given.