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LI's Anthony Kay catches Mets' attention with performance in Double-A

Mets pitcher Anthony Kay during a spring training

Mets pitcher Anthony Kay during a spring training game against the Atlanta Braves at First Data Field on Feb. 23, 2019 in Port St. Lucie. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

WASHINGTON — Lefthander Anthony Kay is dominating Double-A hitters for the Binghamton Rumble Ponies — and has thoroughly captured the attention of Mets decision-makers.

A Ward Melville High alumnus, just like Mets lefthander Steven Matz, Kay tossed a seven-inning, three-hit shutout Tuesday, lowering his ERA to 1.24 in eight starts. He has a 0.87 WHIP, .148 opponents’ batting average and 45 strikeouts and 16 walks in 43 2/3 innings.

And the first-hand reports match the numbers, general manager Brodie Van Wagenen said.

“The results are obviously impressive,” Van Wagenen said. “We were excited by what we saw during spring training (Kay’s first in major-league camp). He’s carried that over. The stuff has been good, the changeup has been a difference-maker for him and he continues to work on fastball command. But the results have been very good so far.”

The results look even better when you consider that Kay, 24, has been pitching professionally for only 13 months. A first-round draft pick in 2016, Kay had his minors debut delayed until last April due to Tommy John surgery.

Kay’s success — and emergence as a potential major-league option sometime this season — is particularly significant considering the state of the Mets’ upper-minors pitching depth. After the Mets sent Justin Dunn to Seattle as part of the Edwin Diaz/Robinson Cano trade, Kay and David Peterson, another former first-round lefty, were suddenly the Mets’ closest-to-the-majors starting pitching prospects. Both finished last year with advanced Class A St. Lucie.

(Peterson hasn’t fared as well as Kay with Binghamton, posting a 4.55 ERA and 1.61 WHIP.)

The Mets aren’t looking at an imminent promotion to Triple-A Syracuse for Kay (nor is one necessarily needed before a call-up to the majors). But the Mets’ rotation offers precedent for fast-climbers after recovery from Tommy John, a profile Kay fits.

Jacob deGrom returned from his surgery in May 2012 and was called up to the majors two years later, almost to the day. Matz, drafted out of Ward Melville in 2009, wasn’t healthy enough to pitch regularly until the start of the 2013 season and ended up in the majors by June 2015.

If a need arises this summer, Kay is positioning himself as an option for the Mets — more and more with every start lately.

“It’s feasible to say he’s going to be a candidate at some point this year if need be,” manager Mickey Callaway said recently. “But it’s too soon to say exactly when.”

Bullpen iron men

Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo entered play Wednesday tied for third among major-league relievers with 25 innings apiece.

That leaves them on pace for 101 innings this season, an unusually high total for relievers but a workload Callaway said they can maintain.

“Like we said in spring training, to get the most out of them being a bullpen member, we need them to throw 100-105 innings,” Callaway said. “That’s kind of how we view those guys. We’re going to get them out there, sometimes they’ll throw three innings, sometimes they’ll throw one. They feel like they’re bouncing back really well right now, so I think this is a good pace for them. We’re going to maximize their ability and their production.”

A productive loss

A four-run deficit late in the Mets’ 5-1 loss to the Nationals on Wednesday allowed Callaway to cross two items off his in-game to-do list: Ease Jeurys Familia back into action with a low-leverage appearance and get J.D. Davis a look in leftfield.

Familia retired the side on 12 pitches in the bottom of the eighth, his first game since returning from the injured list.

“I felt great out there,” said Familia, who lowered his ERA to 5.87. “It was a good to jumpstart my confidence again.

“That’s what any athlete needs sometimes when they’re going through a rough start. They just need to take a breath and go back out there.”

Davis did not have any balls hit to him in his first major-league outfield appearance since September with the Astros.

Extra bases

The Mets made their annual trip Wednesday to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, to meet with veterans, active service men and women and their families. The contingent included CEO Fred Wilpon, Van Wagenen, Callaway and the entire active roster and coaching staff. … Jacob deGrom is scheduled to start Friday against the Marlins. Steven Matz, who said he felt good after his bullpen Wednesday, and Jason Vargas are still candidates to come off the injured list and start in Miami this weekend. But Callaway mentioned a rehab assignment being an option for Vargas in particular.

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