PHILADELPHIA — There’s always something special about an MLB debut.
The Mets’ Jose Butto, a 24-year-old right-handed pitcher with a 4.12 ERA in 98.1 minor league innings this year, got the start for the Mets on Sunday. Only six of those innings were at Triple-A, as the bulk of his season was spent with the Double-A Binghamton Rumble Ponies. Like Brett Baty, Butto was accelerated to the MLB roster due to injuries. Buck Showalter, just like he did when Baty debuted, tried to stay away from the kid before his big day.
“He’s got enough on his mind today. They’ve got enough going on without you getting involved with Psych 101. Sometimes moving quickly with it, before you think too much about it, is good. I’ve found that the biggest thing is staying out of their way.”
Perhaps a little bit of coaching would have done Butto well. He was rocked for four runs in the first inning, and Phillies’ third baseman Alec Bohm lit him up for two three-run homers. Butto’s final line from his first day in the bigs: four innings, nine hits, seven earned runs, two walks and five strikeouts.
The company line this season about MLB debuts is trying to eliminate as many challenges as possible. The Mets don’t like putting fresh-faced rookies in unfamiliar situations and also preach the importance of treating it like any other day in their baseball odyssey. Because of that, the Mets decided to put Michael Perez behind the plate for Butto’s debut. Perez never caught Butto in the minors, but they were teammates very briefly at Triple-A, which matters to Showalter.
“Perez has a little familiarity with Butto. Just their background as far as the minor leagues. He knows of him and has seen him pitch. He knows what he features and does when he’s good, and knows what he needs to do. It’s good when you have a guy who’s seen him before and also knows the opposition.”
Butto’s best pitch is his changeup, though it didn’t show on Sunday. Showalter placed a lot of emphasis on having a strong secondary pitch, which is a prerequisite for getting through MLB batting orders.
“My big thing is, don’t give major league hitters too much credit,” Showalter advised. “Sometimes we act like it’s some unobtainable utopian level. I always tell them to trust themselves.”
Showalter believes that there’s no greater learning curve in professional sports than that of transitioning from the minor leagues to The Show, particularly for hitters that go from facing minor league stuff to the best of the best. Pitching isn’t a walk in the park either.
“I’ve said it many times. Guys come out of college football and they’re All-Pro in the NFL. I’m not going to start talking about things I don’t know, but LeBron comes out of high school and plays in the NBA. I could keep going. Guys come out of Stanford and are on the Ryder Cup [team]. It’s a big jump. The nine-hole hitters here are hitting third in Triple-A.”
For Butto, there was also the strangeness of being on the taxi squad to all of a sudden being thrust into the main event.
“You go from taxi squad with the metal locker out in the hall to pitching,” Showalter laughed. “I hate those temporary lockers in spring training.”
As is custom the day after a doubleheader, the Mets made a flurry of roster moves on Sunday.
Rob Zastryzny, who made a one-inning cameo on Saturday after a more than four-year big-league absence, was sent back to Triple-A Syracuse. Left-handed reliever Sam Clay was designated for assignment. Stephen Nogosek, who’s been back and forth between Triple-A and the Mets all season, was placed on the 15-day injured list with a left oblique strain.
To fill the left-handed reliever void left by Zastryzny and Clay, the Mets selected Nate Fisher from Triple-A. Fisher has a 3.12 ERA in 43.1 innings at Triple-A this season and had never pitched in the big leagues either until giving the Mets three innings of one-hit ball on Sunday. Showalter admitted before the game that he didn’t know much about Fisher but liked one thing about him.
“I call it ‘good face’. Some guys just have a good face,” Showalter said. “It’s not a physical face, even though he’s a handsome young man. They’re all somebody’s son. You’ve gotta keep that in mind. Somebody’s living and dying with everything they do.”
Fisher threw three innings of shutout ball in relief and chuckled at where he was a little over a year ago.
“I saw one guy that texted me. My old boss,” Fisher told reporters. Before signing with the Mariners in June 2021, Fisher was working as a commercial lending analyst at a bank.
“It’s kind of indescribable, it’s pretty surreal right now. So thankful and so blessed for the opportunity,” Fisher said.
Additionally, 2021 cult hero Joey Lucchesi began a rehab assignment with the St. Lucie Mets at Single-A. Tommy Hunter (back tightness) is physically with the team but not active yet, as Showalter said he’s still dealing with some soreness.
Taijuan Walker, whose back locked up in Atlanta on a play where he had to cover first base, did some pitcher’s fielding practice (PFP) before Sunday’s game. His manager said that simulating whatever caused an injury is a good mental exercise.
“Tai’s work day went real well,” Showalter told reporters. “The PFP, everything went real well. That was good. We’ll try to shore that up by the end of the day, the direction we’re going in. We have to see how Tai feels in the morning.”
He also provided an update on Eduardo Escobar, who’s on the injured list with an oblique.
“Escobar’s doing real well. He’s almost pain free.”
Showalter does not believe in old timey rituals when it comes to rookies.
“There’s no hazing. There’s no, ‘Carry my bag’ or ‘Go dress in the training room.’ We don’t do that. I think that’s ridiculous. I hate when people do that. You know what usually happens? It’s because someone did it to them. What a great reason to haze a young player. It’s really stupid.”