Belfast-born Mets' young lefthander PJ Conlon will pitch for the Mets in Cincinnati.
Not since Joe Cleary pitched for the Washington Senator in 1945 has an Irish-born player competed on the major league level. That will change today, Monday, May 7, when Belfast-born pitcher P.J. (for Patrick Joshua) Conlon will toe the rubber for the New York Mets when they face-off against the Reds in Cincinnati.
Conlon was born in Belfast on November 11, 1993, moved to California with his parents when he was a child, and ended up being a 13th round draft choice of the New York Mets in 2015.
His rise to the Mets has been rapid. Like a top prospect, he has progressed on every level of minor league baseball year-by-year, starting out with Rookie-League Brooklyn in 2015 and advancing to AAA Las Vegas of the Pacific Coast League this year. He is a left-handed of small stature (5’11”, 192), but is wily in the style of a Bobby Shantz or a John Tudor, little southpaws who knew how to get batters out with guile.
Conlon’s call to the majors was precipitated by an injury to All-Star pitcher Jacob deGrom and the release of former star pitcher Matt. Harvey. Pitching for the Las Vegas 51s, Conlon posted a 1-2 won-loss record and a 6.75 Earned Run Average in the notoriously pitcher-unfriendly PCL.
The rap on Conlon is that he doesn’t throw that hard. He’s one of those little lefties that maxes out about 88 MPH. His secret is his devastating change-up. A great change can make an 88 MPH fastball look like it’s about 95 MPH. It is a pitch that tantalizes major league hitters and makes them look foolish. MLB.com rated Conlon change as a 60 on a 60-80 scale, which is outstanding. They also said that Conlon’s control—his ability to put the ball where he wants to put it—also at a 60.
As you can see in this video, Conlon has a funky delivery that hides the ball well. Could be an interesting option if Mets decide to carry second lefty.https://t.co/f5DJNhgcpn— Michael Mayer (@mikemayerMMO) February 22, 2018
From the Falls Road to the Major Leagues
“My dad is from Ireland and my mom is from Scotland,” Conlon told IrishCentral several years ago. “They met in California, married, then went back to Belfast where I was born. We came back to Orange County when I was 2-years-old.” His memories of Belfast are relatively recent. “When I was 16 I went to visit my cousins for three weeks. It was a lot of fun and a cool stay.”
Conlon throws both a two- and four-seam fastball, change-up, curve and slider. The change is his “out” pitch and admits it’s “come a long way” in the time he has been a professional. “A lot of people don’t like hitting against lefties. I feel my arm is in good shape to throw multiple days.
He went on to say, “I’m a bit more of a control pitcher, not a hard thrower. I had to put the ball where I wanted to. I would credit that to my college pitching coach. At San Diego, I learned my change-up. My command. It was because of going to college that I got that kind of command.”
I'm a Mets minors junkie because of guys like Corey Taylor Luis Guillorme David Thompson & PJ Conlon. Love knowing I saw them 'back when'. Here's to hoping they're all one step closer to their dreams. Cheers! #LGM pic.twitter.com/PVSXxBpKy2— Ernest Dove (@ernestdove) March 5, 2018
Conlon caught the eye of new Mets manager Mickey Callaway in spring training. According to Michael Mayer of MetsMerizedOnline.com, Callaway said Conlon’s “change-up is going to play against lefties.” Callaway asked Jay Bruce, the lefty-swinging slugging Mets outfielder what he thought about Conlon and the veteran replied, “Yeah, it’s pretty good.”
“I think,” concluded Callaway, “he’s another piece of the puzzle that can help us sometimes in the future.”
For P.J. Conlon the future is suddenly against the Cincinnati Reds on May 7, 2018. The Falls Road will be watching.
Dermot McEvoy is the author of the The 13th Apostle: A Novel of Michael Collins and the Irish Uprising and Our Lady of Greenwich Village, both now available in paperback, Kindle and Audio from Skyhorse Publishing. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at www.dermotmcevoy.com. Follow The 13th Apostle on Facebook.