PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Partway through last season on the Double-A circuit, Kyle Dowdy was pitching in Altoona when a fastball came out of his hand … different, somehow. "Man, that felt really firm," Dowdy recalled saying to himself on the mound. "What happened there?"When Dowdy returned to the
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Partway through last season on the Double-A circuit, Kyle Dowdy was pitching in Altoona when a fastball came out of his hand … different, somehow. "Man, that felt really firm," Dowdy recalled saying to himself on the mound. "What happened there?"
When Dowdy returned to the dugout after the inning, someone told him the radar gun read 99 mph. For most of his career, Dowdy had topped out around 93 mph as he tried to separate himself as a 12th-round Draft pick. Suddenly, he was regularly hitting 98 mph, emboldening him to pitch inside and take advantage of this new "electric feeling.":: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::
"If you ask me, I think it's certainly a God thing," Dowdy said. "There's no rhyme or reason why I should gain five miles an hour."
Whatever the reason -- Dowdy also credits cleaned-up mechanics and a more aggressive approach for the uptick -- it was enough for the Mets to select him in the Rule 5 Draft in December. Now in Port St. Lucie, Dowdy has a built-in advantage to make the Mets' crowded bullpen: If he doesn't, the team must offer him back to his old organization, the Indians, for $50,000. The Mets also have reason to keep Dowdy around: They consider him a notable part of their rotation depth, alongside Walker Lockett, Héctor Santiago and a few others.
"You're going to see him out there as much as possible," manager Mickey Callaway said. "We're excited that he's in our organization for now. … He's on a mission."
Unlike Lockett, the other rookie starter on the Mets' 40-man roster, Dowdy cannot join the Triple-A Syracuse rotation if he doesn't make the team. So he stands a decent chance of making the Mets' Opening Day relief corps, which would allow the team to retain his rights.
That would be welcome news to Dowdy, who is no stranger to bouncing from one place to another. A California native, Dowdy attended the University of Hawaii for a year before transferring to Orange Coast College for a year and, finally, to the University of Houston. There, Dowdy improved his stock enough for the Tigers to draft him in 2015, but they traded him to the Indians last summer.
That day, Dowdy was fresh off a 14-hour bus trip from Erie, Pa., to Portland, Maine, when he received a call telling him about the deal. He caught a flight back to Pennsylvania, then started for his new team two days later. Five months after that, the Mets selected him in the Rule 5 Draft.
"Definitely a whirlwind, that's probably the best way to describe it," Dowdy said. "It's been pretty crazy. … But I couldn't be more excited with where I'm at right now."
Dowdy's next challenge besides making the team? Hitting 100 mph on the radar gun.
"It's the goal for now," he said. "But then once you hit that, it's 103 or 105. There's always a goal."
Welcome to the big leagues
Sunday marked the first day of live batting practice at Mets camp, highlighted by a showdown between reigning National League Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom and 2019 NL Rookie of the Year candidate Peter Alonso. (Like most batters at this early juncture of camp, Alonso mostly tracked pitches without swinging.)
Noah Syndergaard, Dowdy and Santiago were among the other Mets pitchers to throw live BP.
Watch out, kid!
One of the more intriguing prospects in Mets camp, side-armer Stephen Villines, received a scare when a comebacker struck him in the upper thigh during live BP. Mets officials did not allow Villines to continue throwing, but all indications were that he suffered only a minor bruise.
Sending a message
With all 64 players now present in Mets camp, Callaway and general manager Brodie Van Wagenen plan to address the entire group Monday before the team's first full-squad workout.
"We're definitely going to talk about winning," Callaway said. "That's what we expect, and that's what we're here to do. So we're going to talk about that every day. But we'll definitely hit on that topic in our first meeting."
Lending a hand
Tim Tebow, Michael Conforto and Steven Matz were among many Mets who took part in a clinic Sunday for approximately 80 local Special Olympic athletes and their families at First Data Field. At one point during introductions, one of the athletes ran up to embrace Tebow.
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo, Instagram and Facebook.