Prospects Scott, Vasil share Spring Training debut

March 2nd, 2024

JUPITER, Fla. -- A few hours before the Mets’ game against the Marlins on Saturday, manager Carlos Mendoza sat in the visiting dugout at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium and ran down his pitching for the day. In addition to starter Sean Manaea, who was making his Mets debut, two other names stood out: prospects Christian Scott and Mike Vasil, who were both throwing in a Grapefruit League game for the first time this spring.

“We’ve been hearing about these kids for a while now,” Mendoza said. “To get an opportunity to watch them pitch in a big league game for the first time … I’m excited to watch those kids pitch today and do their thing.”

While there wasn’t much to glean from the abbreviated outings -- Scott allowed a run in his inning, while Vasil did not -- the team was more interested in how those two presented themselves against big league competition. Vasil admitted it was difficult treating the outing like a regular game, given how out-of-the-ordinary the experience was for him. But both pitchers managed to walk off the mound with positive feelings.

“It’s pretty cool when you’ve got another guy from your Draft class and a friend and somebody that you’re with every day, and then you’re both going out there and throwing in a big league Spring Training game,” Vasil said. “It’s pretty special and it’s pretty cool.”

A third pitcher from that 2021 Draft class, Dominic Hamel, is scheduled to appear in Sunday’s game. Vasil, Scott and Hamel are MLB Pipeline’s ninth-, 12th- and 16th-ranked Mets prospects, respectively.

Manaea debuts
Like most pitchers, Manaea tries not to dwell on Spring Training game results, given how little they ultimately matter. Also like most pitchers, he finds that easier in concept than in practice.

“It’s hard not to,” Manaea said. “But at the same time, there’s wins and losses with everything. Results are what they are, but there’s also some positives that I take away. So I’ll take those and evaluate what happened and move on.”

For Manaea, Saturday’s positives revolved mostly around his ability to throw strikes -- 41 of them in 56 pitches, with no walks over 2 2/3 innings. Manaea also threw all 11 of his changeups in the zone, generating three whiffs. He recently tweaked the grip of that pitch in hopes of making it more of a weapon against right-handed hitters, much as his sweeper has been effective against lefties.

“There’s always room for improvement and a little bit of tweaking,” said Manaea, who is also working on a cutter. “It’s the first time I’ve used all these pitches in an actual game. So yeah, some good stuff out there.”

Where are the regulars?
Four Mets position players have yet to participate in Grapefruit League games: Brandon Nimmo, Harrison Bader, Jeff McNeil and Joey Wendle. That trend will soon end for at least two of them.

Nimmo, who deliberately starts camp slowly as a way to keep his body healthy, is scheduled to make his Grapefruit League debut on Sunday in Port St. Lucie. Bader, who is also easing into spring following sports hernia surgery late last year, is set to follow on Tuesday.

Wendle (right shoulder soreness) and McNeil (left biceps soreness) are further behind. The former has been throwing from 120 feet and is scheduled to DH in a back-fields game on Sunday, followed by Grapefruit League action at some point late next week. The latter won’t have answers until after the Mets’ team off-day on Monday. While the Mets don’t believe McNeil’s biceps issue is a serious issue, they will send him for testing if it hasn’t calmed down by that time.

Back in town
Reliever Shintaro Fujinami, who signed with the Mets shortly before Spring Training began, returned to Port St. Lucie on Saturday after spending nearly three weeks in a sort of limbo. Initially unable to participate in full workouts due to a visa issue, Fujinami then had to fly back to Japan to address a personal issue. He took care of both that and the visa while abroad, allowing him -- finally -- to become a full participant in camp.

“He’s been through a lot the past couple of weeks with the traveling especially,” Mendoza said. “I talked to him this morning -- he landed yesterday -- and he was still feeling it a little bit coming from Japan.”

Fujinami will likely need to throw at least one bullpen and one live BP session before the Mets will consider using him in a Grapefruit League game. But there’s plenty of time for him to accomplish all that before mid-March and remain a viable option for the Opening Day roster.

“It’s been hectic weeks, a lot of stuff going on,” Fujinami said through an interpreter. “But I’ve been working out, and I feel really good.”