Thomas Szapucki has the look of a ballplayer who believes he belongs on the big stage. The 6’2” left-hander is beginning to turn heads around Coney Island almost as fast as he turns opposing batters around at the plate with his high-heat fastball.
Szapucki, in his second start since his promotion from the Mets Rookie League affiliate Kingsport, took the mound for the Brooklyn Cyclones looking to build off of his impressive first outing a week ago. Things didn’t go according to plan, however, as the Cyclones fell to the Aberdeen IronBirds by the score of 1-0 at MCU Park.
Aberdeen’s one run in the ballgame came on a rare three-base sacrifice fly in the top half of the fifth inning.
Szapucki struck out Aberdeen’s Ronarsy Ledesma on a changeup. Cyclones catcher Ali Sanchez, however, was unable to keep the ball in front of him, allowing Ledesma to reach first base. Jaylen Ferguson then hit a fly ball to right field that sliced into the corner, Cyclones right-fielder Arnaldo Berrios made a diving catch to record the first out of the inning. But Berrios injured his left knee on the catch and was unable to relay the ball back into the infield. An alert Ledesma rounded the bases and scored what would be the only run of the ballgame.
“It was definitely a different game,” Cyclones manager Tom Gamboa said afterwards. “You don’t see that everyday, that’s for sure.”
Aberdeen’s pitching limited Brooklyn to only two hits. Third baseman Blake Tiberi singled in the 7th inning, he was then promptly caught stealing second base on a blown hit and run. Shortstop Colby Woodmansee reached base on a single to lead off the 9th inning, he was doubled up though when first baseman Pete Alonso grounded out to end the game.
For Szapucki, it was about as hard luck of a loss, as a pitcher could get. He pitched seven innings, gave up two hits, one unearned run, striking out ten batters, and walking one.
Szapucki’s record in two starts for the Cyclones is 1-1 with a 0.00 ERA.
“The kid Szapucki is really fun to watch pitch,” Gamboa said afterwards about the Mets 2015 fifth round draft pick. “He had everything working today, I could see after the first inning they were going to have their hands full with him. He pitched a masterpiece. It was a really fine performance from a kid who has a good future ahead of him. I’m glad he’s here, he’s fun to watch.”
Szapucki throws a mid-90’s fastball which has plenty of movement. It now appears as if he’s grown confidence in his off-speed pitches which, combined with his fastball, could potentially bring him success while causing devastation to opposing batters.
“In order to throw a changeup you have to have conviction in the pitch,” Cyclones pitching coach Billy Byrk said about Szapucki. “He’s picked it up full force and he’s throwing it. He comes in smiling and goes ‘that was a filthy changeup I got’ and I go yup, yes it was. At the same time I got to humble him make sure he knows his numero uno is his fastball. His number one pitch, his bread and butter is his fastball.”
“I usually establish fastball on the first pitch,” Szapucki said afterwards. “If the batter proves he can hit it then I’ll go off-speed. I’m definitely very happy with how my changeup is going, I consider it now to be an out pitch. I think I got a couple of strikeouts with it today and I’m very happy with it.”
“He has a live arm,” Byrk said. “He has electric arm speed. God gave him a gift and I tell my pitchers I can’t teach you that part but the rest I can teach. Thanks to God for giving him that lighting bolt of an arm, but also for his upbringing. He’s a great kid on and off the field.”
The Cyclones, coming off a six-game winning streak, have now dropped their last two ballgames. This loss drops Brooklyn’s record to 21-21, three and a half games behind first place Hudson Valley in the McNamara division of the New York-Penn League.
Outfielder Jacob Zanon stole two more bases, second base and then third base, in the third inning of the loss to Aberdeen. Zanon now has 17 swipes on the season, and that leads the NY Penn League.
“It’s been quite awhile since I’ve had a kid with his instincts to steal a base,” Tom Gamboa said. “He’s really got it together, that’s a nice quality to have with his defensive skills. Every time I watch a Met game, they’re talking about lack of speed, it’s nice that we’ve got some in the organization now.
What’s On Deck
The Cyclones will look to get back on the winning track in the second game of a three-game series against Aberdeen, at MCU Park. Erik Manoah (4-1, 4.21 ERA) is scheduled to pitch for the Cyclones, first pitch 7pm.