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The Mets called up Chris Flexen in 2017 to make a start despite him having zero starts in Triple-A and only seven starts in Double-A Binghamton.
Shockingly, he didn’t go well for the inexperienced Flexen. After his pro debut on July, 2017 (three innings, three runs), Flexen would stay with the Mets making 14 appearances and nine starts down the stretch. He posted a 7.88 ERA in 48 innings.
Flexen finally got to Triple-A to start the 2018 season. Made eight appearances for the Las Vegas 51s before the Mets called him up. He would pitch poorly in relief on 11 days rest then get sent back Triple-A to start. He would continue to bounce back-and-forth between Las Vegas and New York before finishing strong in Triple-A with a 3.24 ERA in his last four starts of the season.
The 24-year-old had offseason knee surgery and came into camp this year noticeably slimmer. He made two starts in Triple-A this year before getting a spot start for the Mets on April 20 that didn’t go well. Back down to Triple-A for two outings before returning for one appearance with the Mets.
Flexen was finally able to settle in with six straight starts for Triple-A Syracuse starting on May 11. He posted a 3.15 ERA and 40 strikeouts in that span. Pretty impressive numbers in the International League, where runs per game have jumped from 4.16 in 2018 to 5.24 this season.
Then on June 12, the Mets did something interesting, they had Flexen pitch out of the pen for Syracuse. He pitched two scoreless innings, but more importantly he saw a velo spike with his fastball up to 96 mph.
The Mets needing a reliever – decided instead of letting Flexen settling into his new role – they would call him up after only one appearance as a strict reliever. The right-hander pitched the eighth inning of a tie game against the Cardinals. His stuff looked good overall, though he was a victim of Mets killer Paul DeJong‘s solo homer.
In the outing, Flexen would strikeout out two including Jose Martinez on a 98 mph fastball. Yes, 98 miles per hour on a fastball (averaged 93 mph in 2018) from Chris Flexen. He was also throwing his slider 88-91 mph and struck out Paul Goldschmidt on a good changeup at 86.
Chris Flexen has shown increased velocity since moving to the bullpen, here he blows 98 mph by Jose Martinez. pic.twitter.com/8tuAheb6JV
— Michael Mayer (@mikemayerMMO) June 20, 2019
Flexen got his second chance as a full-time reliever in the big leagues on Wednesday night against the Braves. He came in with nobody out with a runner on second in the sixth inning, a runner he would end up stranding. Though his control was still not where it needs to be, he flashed better stuff yet again.
He would come back out to pitch the seventh inning and he was impressive, setting down Dansby Swanson, Freddie Freeman, and Josh Donaldson in order. He struck out Swanson swinging at a 92 mph slider and blew a 97 mph fastball by Freeman.
As I noted, control was an issue for Flexen with only 23 strikes in 40 pitches. However, his fastball in the 95-98 mph range and slider at 88-92 certainly makes him an intriguing potential bullpen asset going forward if he’s able to settle into controlling his pitches as a full-time reliever.