SAN DIEGO -- Officially, 26,262 fans paid to attend the Mets' 7-5 loss to the Padres on Thursday, scattering themselves among three decks at Petco Park, the Western Metal Supply Company building and a grassy berm beyond right-center field.Unofficially, the loudest pocket of them clustered a few rows back from
SAN DIEGO -- Officially, 26,262 fans paid to attend the Mets' 7-5 loss to the Padres on Thursday, scattering themselves among three decks at Petco Park, the Western Metal Supply Company building and a grassy berm beyond right-center field.
Unofficially, the loudest pocket of them clustered a few rows back from the visiting dugout. These were the Flexens -- mom, dad, grandparents, relatives and friends, all in town to see Chris Flexen make his big league debut. When Petco Park's public address announcer introduced him, the Flexen fan club roared. They cheered. They hung on his every fastball, curve and slider.
"Oh, it's exciting," said Flexen, who became the first Mets starter to jump from Double-A to the Majors since Mike Pelfrey in 2006. "This is a dream come true. It's something you work your whole life for. It's overwhelming. It's exciting. It's nerve-wracking. It's all of the above."
Of, course, players rarely jump multiple levels, because it is difficult to do. Flexen's reality struck immediately, when the first batter he faced, Manuel Margot, homered to left on an 0-2 curveball out of the strike zone -- prompting Flexen to think to himself, "Welcome to the big leagues." The rookie allowed a walk and a single, before escaping the first thanks to a pair of outs on the bases.
Things only worsened from there, when Flexen, the Mets' No. 17 prospect per MLBPipeline.com, allowed a hit, plunked a batter and walked another before recording an out in the second. Margot's two-run double resulted in more damage off Flexen, who allowed four runs (three earned) on five hits and four walks in three innings. Dialing his four-seam fastball up to 95 mph, Flexen showcased a five-pitch mix that included a two-seamer, curveball, changeup and slider. But he recorded only nine outs in his debut.
"I told him when I took him out, he's going to pitch a long time in this league," said Mets manager Terry Collins, who would not commit to another start for Flexen. "He's just got to command the strike zone a little bit better."
Flexen's promotion to the big leagues came as a surprise to the rookie, who began the season rehabbing from minor knee surgery in Class A. But Zack Wheeler's placement on the disabled list created a need for the Mets, who considered Flexen a better option than Tyler Pill. Flexen said he was "stunned" when Double-A Binghamton manager Luis Rojas called him into his office this week to tell him the news.
"I had a lot of emotions that day," Flexen said.
He did again Thursday, well aware of those who traveled from his Northern California hometown to watch him at Petco Park. Shortly after the game ended, Flexen wandered back out to the field, perching on a fence, as more than two dozen of his fans took turns taking pictures. Ever the rookie, Flexen asked a team official if it was appropriate for him to walk outside in shorts and a hooded sweatshirt, rather than the full uniform he had ditched moments before.
After about 10 minutes of hugs, laughs and photos, Flexen jogged back to the dugout, keen to catch the team bus, as his family members and friends applauded him.
"I'm still living the dream here," Flexen said. "Obviously, it didn't go how I wanted it to. I didn't really give this ballclub the best chance to win the game tonight. But it's still fun, a good learning experience. The ultimate goal from here on out is to stay here, and have a long, healthy career."
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook.