The 2021 New York Mets were always going to live or die by their bullpen. With so many unknowns coming from guys who are meant to provide stability, there was, and still is, a fear that a lot of otherwise close games might be undermined by shoddy relief pitching. This is why what Sean Reid-Foley did in his debut is so important.
The Long Journey
Before analyzing Thursday’s game, it’s important to note how Reid-Foley got here in the first place.
His path to becoming a Met wasn’t exactly a smooth one. Where once he was the Toronto Blue Jays’ star prospect, his major league debut in 2018 quickly dampened the mood around him. Struggling to a 4.71 ERA in his first two seasons, mostly as a starter, it became apparent that he lacked a full arsenal and couldn’t handle going through the batting order more than twice. As a result, by 2020, the Blue Jays fully converted him to a reliever.
This transition would prove to be a career-changing move for Reid-Foley. While he didn’t see the typical velocity bump that many starters-turned-relievers experience, he did make some much needed adjustments. Most important was dropping his two worst pitches-his curveball and sinker-and further refining his remaining pitches.
Though they were limited, the results were encouraging as he produced a 1.35 ERA in five outings. Helping him were career-bests in groundball rate (61.1%), barrel rate (0%) and weak contact rate (11%).
By season’s end, the only lingering issue Reid-Foley had was with his control. With six walks in 6.2 innings of work, it was clear that some further tweaking still needed to be done.
Ultimately, Reid-Foley’s performance wasn’t enough for the Blue Jays to want to keep him. It was, however, enough to draw interest from the Mets. Coming over in exchange for Steven Matz, his potential as a long-reliever was enticing to a team that lacked proven bullpen depth.
An Electric Debut
This brings things to April 22. Already a member of the Mets taxi squad, the 25-year-old finally got the callup ahead of Thursday’s game. Following another short outing from Joey Lucchesi, Reid-Foley entered the fourth ready to light it up.
Not wasting anytime, he made quick work of his first batter, striking him out on four pitches. This opening set the tone for what became one of the most dominant outings by any reliever in Mets history.
Pitching the fourth, fifth and sixth innings, Reid-Foley was 100% perfect. In full control over his four-seamer, slider and changeup, he didn’t allow a single Chicago Cub to reach base. All the while, he continued inducing weak contact and kept things on the ground, recording three ground outs vs. just one fly out.
The final tally for Reid-Foley was that on just 39 pitches, he finished his debut with four strikeouts, zero hits and zero walks.
To put in perspective how incredible this outing is, this is the first time since Robert Gsellman in 2016 that a Mets reliever went at least three scoreless innings in their debut.
Mets with at least 3 shutout innings as a relief pitcher inMets debut:
Sean Reid-Foley 4/22/21
Robert Gsellman 6/23/16
Buddy Carlyle 5/31/14
Jeremy Hefner 4/23/12
Dan Wheeler 6/18/03
Pedro Martinez 6/14/96
Blas Minor 4/26/95
Hal Reniff 7/1/67
Dennis Musgraves 7/9/65 https://t.co/lzpylDYSR0
— Metsmerized Online (@Metsmerized) April 23, 2021
To get even more specific, the last Mets reliever to go at least three scoreless innings without allowing a baserunner in their debut was Dan Wheeler back in 2003. And just to make things even more historic, Reid-Foley was the first to do this with at least four strikeouts. So put that in the books.
Reid-Foley will likely earn a well deserved rest for the next couple of days. After that, his place as a member of the Mets bullpen is clear as day.
With Seth Lugo still on the injured list and the other long-relief options faltering, Reid-Foley’s performance is a breath of fresh air for the Mets. At the very least, it gives hope that a top heavy bullpen might have just gained some much needed reinforcements.
Indeed Reid-Foley’s debut might become a model for his role moving forward. While the top of the rotation has no trouble going deep into games, the back-end starters have struggled in this regard. Making one or two multi-inning appearances each week should be manageable for Reid-Foley. Long-term, once starters Carlos Carrasco and Noah Syndergaard return they will likely be on some form of innings limit, at least early on. This should still provide Reid-Foley with ample opportunities to see regular appearances each week.
Of course, all of this is just speculation. For now, appreciating Reid-Foley’s historic debut is all that matters.
Featured Image Courtesy of Mark Brown/Getty Images
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