PHILADELPHIA — For his next trick, Tylor Megill wants to throw even harder.
His fastball reached 99.1 mph — the fastest pitch of his life — on Opening Day last week, a called third strike against the Nationals’ Cesar Hernandez, the Mets’ first opposing batter of the year. That game was the strongest show of velocity for Megill, who has developed from fringe prospect/maybe reliever less than two years ago to legitimate rotation option as he fills in for injured ace Jacob deGrom.
But no pitcher, once he has thrown 99, wants to stay at 99.
“I’m throwing 100 this year,” Megill said Monday, the day before his scheduled start against the Phillies. “Always, you want to throw as hard as you can. If you’re at 99, why not 100?”
Triple-digits long has been a goal for the 26-year-old righthander. But it is more realistic than ever after major velocity jumps during his mid-20s.
In 2020, when the pandemic caused the cancellation of the minor-league season, Megill worked on smoothing the pitching delivery of his 6-7, 230-pound frame, and that paid almost immediate dividends.
He jumped from the low-to-mid-90s before the pandemic to consistently mid-90s and touching 97 in 2020, catching the attention of Mets officials during their fall instructional league and earning an invitation to major-league spring training for 2021.
During his rookie season last year, he averaged 94.6 mph with his fastball and maxed out at 97.5. On Thursday, he threw nine pitches that topped that. He “couldn’t help but look” at the stadium radar gun, he said, on the 99-mph pitch.
“That’s good. That’s a progression,” Megill said. “You work your butt off and everything in the offseason to get these kind of results, so it’s good that they’re showing. Obviously, I want to push it more and get stronger as the year goes, be able to sustain that.”
He believes there is room for further growth because he is still “growing into my body in some ways,” he said. And he is working on figuring out the best customized in-season plan for taking care of and strengthening his arm.
There is the possibility that the fast fastballs on Opening Day were because it was Opening Day, and that always means extra adrenaline.
“I don’t know,” he said with a wry smile. “I guess we’ll find out Tuesday.”
The Mets will see old friend Zack Wheeler on Tuesday night when he makes his season debut, his first game action after not pitching in any exhibitions during camp.
Like so many starters around the majors, Wheeler will be at something less than full strength, having endured a camp that was weird in addition to short. He was slowed by shoulder soreness during the offseason, then started spring training by catching the flu. He has been limited to live batting practice sessions and simulated games in recent weeks.
“A lot of times, Zack can keep his pitch count [down] pretty well because he can get some early outs,” Phillies manager Joe Girardi said. “So you’re not going to see 100 pitches, but he’s been close to 50 at this point. So we’ll increase it.”
Jeff McNeil’s day out of the starting lineup Monday — which was for rest and because he wasn’t a good matchup against lefthander Ranger Suarez, manager Buck Showalter said — leaves Pete Alonso and Francisco Lindor as the only Mets to start every game . . . Righthander Jordan Yamamoto cleared waivers and the Mets sent him to Triple-A Syracuse . . . Girardi on the Phillies’ 6:45 p.m. weekday start times: “You’ll never hear me complain a game is too early.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism