Mets’ reliever Sam McWilliams is showing off his ‘wow’ factor

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PORT ST. LUCIE — Sam McWilliams has never thrown a pitch in the major leagues, but he received a major league deal from the Mets this offseason.

The right-hander offered a glimpse of the reason why on Saturday.

McWilliams, 25, threw a live batting-practice session on a backfield against Kevin Pillar, Albert Almora Jr., Mallex Smith and Bruce Maxwell, flashing the arsenal that has made him an intriguing arm in the Mets’ organization, even if he mixed in a few wild pitches along the way.

“Wow,” said Pillar, one of McWilliams’ strikeout victims. “Definitely someone that’s very talented. It was [a] night-and-day difference from the first time I faced him. You can obviously see the talent, you can see the velocity, you can see the stuff. When he was in the strike zone today, it was elite stuff, and it’s good to see the adjustments he made form three days ago and the work that he put in. Like I said, it was big league stuff, and it was tough to hit.”

Mets
Sam McWilliams
Corey Sipkin

The Mets signed McWilliams, who was reportedly in high demand after using analytics to revamp his approach at Tampa Bay’s alternate site last year, to a $750,000 contract after he had spent the last three seasons in the Rays’ organization. He made it to Triple-A in 2019, pitching to a 8.18 ERA in 11 games, eight of them starts. Earlier that season, he posted a 2.05 ERA in 15 appearances and 11 starts at Double-A.

Manager Luis Rojas said the Mets are currently planning to use McWilliams as a multi-inning pitcher, but called him a “hybrid” type who also provides starting depth. For a team that has recently lacked that kind of pitching depth, particularly at the top of its minor league system, McWilliams will continue to be a fascinating arm to watch.

“This kid, we’re learning him more and more. We like the stuff a lot,” said Rojas, who made it a point to view McWilliams’ outing Saturday from behind the plate. “The fastball jumps out of his hand. This kid’s [6-foot-7], it’s almost like he’s throwing downhill. Then he’s got a curveball that is a true downer. Also a slider and his changeup in that repertoire.

“Today he was able to locate that certain spot in the strike zone to just off the strike zone to create a pattern. If he finds an identity like that, he can keep getting better. He’s very smart, very savvy about where his stuff plays. Now working together with our pitching coaches and getting some of the feedback of where his stuff is, he’s learning even a lot more. It was a great day.”

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