SAN DIEGO — Chris Flexen heard the speech. Every player that comes up to the big league sits in Terry Collins’ office at some point and hears the most basic of advice: do what got you here. Now the 23-year-old, who is making the big jump from Double-A to the big leagues on Thursday, just has to remember it when he gets out on the mound and makes his major league debut.
“I don’t think it will be too difficult,” said Flexen, who will start in place of the injured Zack Wheeler on Thursday against the Padres. “The hardest thing is to manage the emotions. Everything is going to be heightened at the moment.
“Like he said whatever got me here, stick with it. That’s been being confident, attacking guys and that’s what I am going to go out and do. Just stick to the game plan.”
Flexen has impressed the Mets in seven starts in Double-A this season. He’s allowed nine earned runs in 48.2 innings pitched (1.66 ERA). He’s walked just seven, or one per start, and struck out 50.
According to two talent evaluators who have seen Flexen pitch, he is not a high-velocity guy. He “works in the low 90’s with decent life to his fastball.” The slider and changeup had been his most improved pitches this season. He can throw four pitches for strikes and does a good job mixing them up. He projects as a back-end starter in the future.
The Mets brought him into major league camp this spring, but right before he was scheduled to start a Grapefruit League game, he woke up with pain in his knee. He missed the rest of spring training after having a bone chip removed.
Still, the Mets think highly of his potential.
Thursday, however, Flexen just has to keep focused on what he can do against the Padres. That is hard for all pitchers making the major league debuts.
“It’s very, very tough, because they think whoever is catching them, knows all the answers because he knows the hitters,” Collins said. “The one thing that every young pitcher doesn’t understand is these catchers don’t know them. They have to pitch to their strengths. If they don’t, they get away from that, they will have problems.”
So Flexen, a native of Northern California who is expecting a big crowd of family and friends at Petco Park on Thursday, was trying to keep focused on what got him here.
“Most of all being really confident,” Flexen said. “Attacking hitters, sticking to game plan, attacking hitters, sticking to a game plan, not trying to do too much, not afraid of making mistakes. Not letting anything, the little things, bother me. Just attack guys and win a ballgame. That was the biggest thing — try to win a ball game for the guys.”
NOW PLAYING THIRD. . .
Neil Walker went 0-for-5 with a run scored and played nine innings at third base for the Mets’ Triple-A affiliate Wednesday night. The second baseman could move over there if the Mets find themselves moving Asdrubal Cabrera before the trade deadline.
“We just want to protect ourselves. We want to make sure we cover all the bases,” Collins said. “We talked to Neil about it. He was fine with it. We just got to make sure that we’ve done due diligence, when he gets back, if something should happen.”
Walker has been on the disabled list since June 15 with a partially torn left hamstring.
Brandon Nimmo, playing in the same game, went 0-for-2, playing nine innings in center. Nimmo has been on the DL since July 8 after suffering a partially collapsed lung.
ROAD TO RECOVERY
According to the Double-A team, righthander Robert Gsellman will make his first rehab start Thursday for them.
Gsellman has been on the DL with a strained left hamstring since June 28. . . Lefthander Tommy Milone (knee) started for the rookie-level Gulf Coast Mets Wednesday and went 1.2 innings, allowed two hits, two runs (one earned) and struck out three.