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Joey Lucchesi making case for spot in Mets' rotation

Joey Lucchesi of the Mets delivers a pitch

Joey Lucchesi of the Mets delivers a pitch against the Marlins during the second inning of a Grapefruit League spring training game at Roger Dean Stadium on Wednesday in Jupiter, Fla. Credit: Getty Images/Michael Reaves

JUPITER, Fla. — With two weeks to go, an eternity in the twilight zone known as spring training, there is little clarity regarding the Mets’ rotation competition — including how many openings there are.

But funky-throwing lefthander Joey Lucchesi is taking his shot.

Lucchesi tossed three scoreless innings in a 3-2 exhibition loss to the Marlins on Wednesday, bringing his two-appearance total to five shutout frames. He has allowed zero hits, struck out seven and walked three.

"I’m really happy about today," he said. "I obviously want to show them that I belong here, and every time I step on that rubber I want to prove my worth. That’s what I’m doing out there every time, and that’s all I can do."

Lucchesi, lefthander David Peterson and righthander Jordan Yamamoto appear to be the primary candidates for the spot or spots in the rotation. The Mets need at least a No. 5 starter, and they might need a fill-in for righthander Carlos Carrasco, who is well behind the rest of the starting pitchers, most recently because of a sore elbow. He is scheduled to face hitters Thursday. The Mets have not ruled him out for Opening Day.

In the meantime, Lucchesi is trying to impress, doing so Wednesday with suboptimal command. He threw about half of his pitches for strikes and walked a pair of batters. But he managed to erase one of the free baserunners by picking off Jazz Chisolm — a sequence set up with first baseman Pete Alonso, who commented that he had not seen Lucchesi’s pickoff motion.

"He told me to give him that slow pickoff move first so he can get used to me," Lucchesi said.

Lucchesi obliged, starting out with an easy one. Then he threw one pitch, followed by another pickoff attempt, this one full-speed and successful.

"I was super pumped and Pete was pumped, so that was pretty cool," he said.

One aspect of Lucchesi that the Mets are still learning: his signature pitch, the churve, a cross between a changeup and a curveball.

"Special pitch," manager Luis Rojas said.

Catcher Tomas Nido, who returned to the lineup after missing several days because of a bruised foot, received an unofficial briefing on the pitch Tuesday.

"It was funny, because when we were talking, he kept saying the churve," Nido said. "And I was like, the slider? The curve? The changeup? He’s like, no, the churve. It’s a really, really good pitch, and he commands it well. So very successful with it and it was a lot of fun to be back there with him today."

Lucchesi added: "I could put that anywhere[(usually], but I couldn't get the release point today. I feel like I would've had more strikeouts if I had that going."

A focus for Lucchesi over the offseason and in camp has been adding velocity. If his fastball is faster, Rojas said, his offspeed pitch — the churve — will be more effective.

His fastball averaged 91 mph (with a max of 92.8 mph) on Wednesday. That is a bit better than his 90-mph norm in years past.

That is progress, Lucchesi said, but not perfection. He wants to be at 93 regularly and touch 95.

"My velo is progressively getting better throughout camp," he said. "I'm started to feel like myself again. My rhythm is almost on time. I feel like I could've been a little bit better with my rhythm today. But I feel like that's all going to happen in time, so I'm really happy with how I'm building up."

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