Mets’ Buck Showalter: Joey Lucchesi will only get ‘better and better’

New York Mets starting pitcher Joey Lucchesi during spring training workouts.
New York Mets starting pitcher Joey Lucchesi during spring training workouts. / Rich Storry-USA TODAY Sports

The Mets intrasquad game Friday lasted just three innings, but the quick game was good enough for manager Buck Showalter to kick off his second season in charge.

“Just got our work done. Got a lot of things started, so to speak,” Showalter said about the “dry run” of a game day experience.

“Guys have had their game mode turned off for a long time – my shoes, getting dressed, the game glove, how many bats, batting gloves – just everything that goes into preparing for a day,” he said. “Just trying to get everybody back in game mode a little bit.”

One of those players who has been out of game mode for longer than most was the game’s starting pitcher Joey Lucchesiwho hasn’t pitched since June 2021.

"Big day for Joey to get out there and be healthy through two innings," Showalter said of the 29-year-old left-hander. “That doesn’t go unnoticed. That’s been a long path for him.”

Showalter said he “could tell he’s got a lot of juice flying” in the short start.

“It’s a big day for him. I don’t want to lose sight of that. A lot of emotions for there. And I think he’ll only get better and better as he [continues],” the manager added.

Lucchesi faced seven batters over the two innings, allowing one walk and a leadoff bloop single to Brett Baty.

"To be honest with you, I was a little anxious, like good nerves," Lucchesi said when asked if he was nervous after the game.

"I thought I did well, I could've attacked the strike zone a little bit better, to be honest with myself. I was behind in the count, that's why I gave up that one hit to Baty," he said. "I'm happy with today... I feel like I'm in a good spot."

Lucchesi was shut down in the middle of the 2021 season before undergoing Tommy John surgery,  which kept him out of action last year save for eight minor league rehab appearances. Showalter said there were discussions about bringing him up at the end of the 2022 season, but there were reservations about his health when tossing him into the heat of the stretch run.

“I’m super happy to be healthy and playing now. I’m just excited. I want to help the team out and win some ballgames,” Lucchesi said earlier this week.

For Showalter, getting back in the swing of things to start a season and facing big-league hitters was a big step in his return to action.

“I don’t care how much you throw on the side, I don’t care how much you throw in [simulated] games, I don’t care how much you throw in rehab, or whatever in the offseason, there’s a different feel when games are being played,” he said.

They will see how Lucchesi feels tomorrow, Showalter said. And “if he gets through that and work day where he can start thinking about just getting people out as opposed to ‘is that gonna hurt? Is that gonna hurt?’ he added, miming a left-handed delivery for the last.

“He’s crossed a lot of paths to get here,” Showalter said, “but still, this is the final hurdle."