Tylor Megill, targeting a late August or early September return from a right shoulder strain, is accepting of what his new assignment will be when he gets back: relief pitcher.
“I’m fine with that,” he said Saturday before the Mets won Game 1 of a doubleheader, 8-5, against Atlanta. “As long as I’m helping the team out, that’s all that matters. Obviously I want to start, but right now if that’s what they need me as, so be it, I’ll do it.
“It’s exciting that I’ll be able to come out for one, two innings and just get it going. Definitely different from starting, but it is what it is.”
The logic behind the theoretically temporary move is simple: Megill, who was in the rotation early in the season only because of injuries to others, doesn’t have a spot among the starting five anymore. So instead of letting him waste away in the minors, the Mets prefer to have him contribute in shorter stints as a reliever — especially if he can pitch his way into the late-inning, high-leverage situation, which has been a relative weakness for them.
Megill thinks relieving might suit him, too, he said, citing a velocity drop and the overall lessened effectiveness of his pitches late in starts this year.
“As long as I can maintain the sharpness on my stuff for however long I’m going, I think I’ll be pretty solid to say the least,” he added.
And if that gets him into playoff-race games — and playoff games — in full ballparks with electric atmospheres, all the better.
“Those are the kinds of situations you want to be throwing in,” he said. “Definitely shouldn’t shy away from it. It’s something you should build on. It’s exciting. You should definitely take all that energy and whatnot, be confident and go out there and do what you do.”
Megill won’t be coming in completely raw as a bullpen arm, either. He relieved in college at Arizona and in the minors with the Mets. They didn’t convert him into a starter until the middle of 2019 (which was followed by him missing 2020 when the pandemic caused the cancellation of the minor-league season and his quick ascent to the majors in 2021).
Mets decision-makers told Megill they plan for him to be a starter in 2023, he said, so the bullpen move won’t last forever.
That is not an uncommon way for teams to use younger pitchers. The first example to come in mind for Megill was Corbin Burnes, the NL Cy Young Award winner last season who pitched out of the bullpen as recently as 2020.
“I know there’s some cases of people who were starters who go into the bullpen just to get their feet wet, figure things out for a couple of innings at a time,” Megill said. “They take . . . the experience they get from the first couple innings into longer [outings] when you’re throwing as a starter.”
In the meantime, he is scheduled to throw a bullpen session next Saturday. That will be his first since getting hurt in mid-June.
“I’m excited for that,” he said. “It’s been a while.”
Jacob deGrom’s start Sunday will be his first at Citi Field in exactly 13 months. That his return from a injury-induced layoff came on the road was basically on purpose.
“We wanted him to try to get one under his belt before he got here, but that’s just the way that the medical and rehab fell, too,” manager Buck Showalter said.
Because he still is building up to a full workload, deGrom will be limited to about six innings or 70-75 pitches against Atlanta.
The Mets put Tommy Hunter on the 15-day injured list Saturday with what they called “low back tightness.” That allowed them to call up a much-needed fresh arm in the form of righthander Yoan Lopez.
Hunter, who had multiple back surgeries to repair six herniations last year, apparently has been dealing with this issue awhile. He has a 2.51 ERA in 11 appearances since joining the Mets in June.
“It got to the point [Friday] night where we thought [now] would be a good chance to try to settle it up,” Showalter said of Hunter, who had a two-week gap between appearances last month. “We think in the two-week period that it should calm down enough to contribute the rest of the way.”
Hunter added: “Any time you put holes in your bones, you’re going to have some residual effects. It’s something they said was going to be continual and just gotta keep working on it.