Jacob Rhame was just another hard-throwing, fairly anonymous reliever in the back of the Mets’ bullpen when he decided — according to Major League Baseball — to “intentionally” throw a pitch in the head area of Phillies first baseman Rhys Hoskins on April 23 at Citi Field.
Rhame denied he was throwing at Hoskins. But the repercussions from that decision — if Rhame made it — have followed the 26-year-old ever since.
First, Hoskins homered off Rhame the next night and took a 34-second trot around the bases that went viral.
Then, Rhame was suspended for two games by MLB. The bespectacled righthander filed an appeal, but the next day was sent to Triple-A Syracuse by the Mets.
The appeal won’t be heard until (or if) Rhame is called up again. But why would the Mets rush to call up a pitcher with a 6.65 career ERA who is going to be suspended (unless the entire suspension is rescinded, which is unlikely) when they have five other righthanded pitchers at Syracuse who are on the 40-man roster and aren’t facing a suspension upon their callup to the bigs?
Finally, on Monday, Rhame entered a game against the Lehigh Valley IronPigs in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and was greeted by the video of Hoskins’ slow journey. The Syracuse ballclub was not amused, and, according to Syrcause.com, the IronPigs later apologized.
The funny thing about Rhame’s not-so excellent adventure is he may be the only Mets pitcher who has tried to retaliate (if he did) for the high number of times Mets batters have been hit by pitches and have been sent to the X-ray machine in 2019.
Six times this season a Met has had to get an X-ray after getting hit in the hand by a baseball while in the batter’s box. So far, the Mets are 6-for-6 in nothing getting broken.
The Mets officially have been hit 18 times (all stats are going into Saturday), which is second in baseball to the Cubs’ 21.
But that doesn’t include the two times in an eight-day span that Robinson Cano was hit in the hand and knocked out of a game, because both times Cano was called for a swing. And it doesn’t include April 20 in St. Louis, when the same thing happened to Pete Alonso — he was hit in the hand, was called for a swing and had to exit the game.
On April 1 in Miami, Juan Lagares had to get an X-ray after he was hit in the knuckle while attempting to bunt. Brandon Nimmo was hit two days later and had to leave a game vs. the Marlins.
Cano, who broke his hand when he was hit by a pitch while with the Mariners last season, was lucky to only get bruised this year. Still, because of the HBPs, Cano missed two full games, was knocked out of one in the first inning and another in the seventh. The Mets went 2-2 in those games.
“You don’t ever want that,” Mets manager Mickey Callaway said after Cano was hit for the second time. “You don’t want your players being exposed like that. One of the reasons is we were leading our division in runs. So we had really good hitters and when you have really good hitters, you have to pitch in. So I get it from the opposing side. But you still don’t want your guys getting hit.”
When he was hit by Gio Gonzalez of the Brewers in the first inning last Sunday, the normally calm Cano angrily slammed his helmet to the ground.
“Just a reaction,” Cano said. “Nothing against him or anybody.”
Other than Cano’s helmet slam and Rhame’s moment in the spotlight, the Mets really haven’t gotten mad — or even — for all the times their batters have been plunked.
“When I came up in ’05, you’re going to get the retaliation right away,” Cano said. “It’s a different game than it is right now. Guys have more fun. I love when guys have fun. When someone has fun, they don’t take it personally. If you strike me out, do whatever the [heck] you want. Because if I get you, I’m going to do whatever the [heck] I want.”
Mets pitchers have hit 16 batters, which is fourth in the NL, with Jacob deGrom having the most with three. Remember, Rhame didn’t hit Hoskins on the 98 mile-per-hour fastball over his head or the later 3-and-2 pitch that was also high and tight and drew Hoskins’ ire and almost led to a bench-clearing brawl.
If Rhame was retaliating, was it because the Phillies had hit Alonso and Jeff McNeil with pitches the night before? McNeil had to get X-rays on his hand.
Or was it a cumulative thing? Were the Mets just fed up with getting hit and starting to think it was more than just a happenstance?
“It’s a good question,” Todd Frazier said. “I think [pitching inside] is part of it. I think it’s part of the game. Maybe some are intentional. Maybe some are not. You just never know, but the more you keep coming in on a guy like Cano, the more it makes you think a little bit. Maybe something along the lines of, ‘If you’re going to come in, fine, but sometimes it’s a little too far in.’ I think getting hit is a part of baseball, though, at the end of the day. It’s something that you keep in the back of your mind. If it keeps going on, then there’s something fishy going on.”
McNeil, who has been hit a team-high six times, said: “I think that’s just baseball. Teams pitching inside. I think I’ve gotten nicked like three of my times I got hit — I barely got touched. I’m on the plate a little bit. The one time I got hit on the hand, it didn’t feel good.”
Frazier, who has been hit once this season and 60 times in his nine-year career, said a batter knows when he is getting thrown at — or at least thinks he does.
“Just depends on the situation,” he said. “What happened the night before, what happened during that game, what have you done to that person in the past. I always give a look just to make sure. Usually when you get hit, nowadays they give you a nod to make sure you knew it wasn’t on purpose, which is fine. If they don’t, then it makes you wonder. Most of us have been around long enough to know that.”
As for Rhame, Callaway vowed this week that the suspension hanging around the righthander’s neck won’t factor in when the Mets are looking to call up an arm for their bullpen. His sacrifice (if it was one) won’t have been for nothing.
“No, that doesn’t [factor in],” Callaway said. “I think when we call up Rhame, we’ll be able to use him and then we can figure out what to do with the suspension when the times comes.”
On Saturday, the Mets called up a righthander from Syracuse to replace the injured Luis Avilan. It was Chris Flexen.
The Mets who have been hit by pitches this season, with number of times hit and number of times in the x-ray machine (going into Saturday):
Jeff McNeil 6 1
Brandon Nimmo 3 1
Pete Alonso* 2 1
Michael Conforto 2 0
Robinson Cano* 1 2
Todd Frazier 1 0
Juan Lagares 1 1
Wilson Ramos 1 0
Dominic Smith 1 0
Total 18 6
*Cano (twice) and Alonso (once) were called for swings on pitches that hit them in the hand, so those don’t count as HBPs. But they still hurt and still led to x-rays.