From out of nowhere, Edgin impressing Mets
Hoping for lefty specialist role, pitcher maintains scoreless spring
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Josh Edgin grew up in Three Springs, Pa. Population: 418. The nearest Wal-Mart is 40 minutes away.
"It's the middle of nowhere," he cheerfully admitted.
He was a state champion wrestler as a junior at Mercersburg Academy, finishing fourth in the nationals. But early in his senior season, he tore the labrum in his right, non-pitching shoulder. Not wanting to miss baseball season, he chose not to have surgery.
Edgin went to Ohio State, but he transferred to Division II Francis Marion University, where he had a 4.07 ERA his senior year while throwing 88-90 mph. He was selected by the Mets in the 30th round in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft and didn't exactly drive a hard bargain.
"They called me right away and said, 'Are you going to sign?' I said, 'Yeah, I'm a senior sign.' Just whenever you come, I'm going to sign the papers. Just tell me where to meet you,'" Edgin said with a laugh at Osceola County Stadium before Sunday's 9-5 Grapefruit League loss to the Astros.
"[Scout] Marlin McPhail drafted me. He came to Florence, S.C., where I was at school. We went to Chili's. It was kind of awkward. Marlin had his briefcase and Mets stuff on. He was walking in, and I was walking behind him like a little puppy dog. We sat down and he put his briefcase up. 'Sign, here, here and here. What do you want to eat?'"
To the best of Edgin's recollection, it was a Southwest chicken wrap.
Everybody loves a Spring Training Cinderella story, and Edgin has played that role so far for the Mets this spring. He's 25 years old, spent all last season pitching at Class A Savannah and Port St. Lucie and he wasn't even invited to big league camp when he reported in February.
Yet here he is, still in the running to earn a spot as the lefty specialist out of the bullpen, a role that the Mets need to fill after veteran Tim Byrdak underwent surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his knee.
Edgin's probably still a long shot to be on the roster on April 5, when the Mets open the 2012 season at Citi Field against the Braves. At the moment, it appears that Garrett Olson has the inside track, but Daniel Herrera, Chuck James and Robert Carson are also in the mix. And the Mets are still contemplating whether to sign C.J. Nitkowski.
But Edgin's odds are a lot shorter than they were a few years, several months or even a couple of weeks ago. And he's put himself squarely on the radar should a need develop in the future.
"We're not really sure what's going to happen, except that we know he's going to get a chance here. And if he doesn't make the club, we know he's not far away," said manager Terry Collins.
Edgin made his fifth Spring Training appearance Sunday and has yet to allow a run. He faced two left-handed hitters in one inning, the eighth. Brett Wallace doubled for just one of two hits Edgin has allowed all spring, and Joe Thurston flied out to left.
Edgin isn't quite sure why he's been able to outperform his Draft slot to this point, other than that he throws harder now. He said he "brushed up on some mechanics" after signing. That, plus going to the bullpen, added about 5 mph. He concedes that his college numbers weren't great and that scouts probably took into account that it was against Peach Belt Conference competition.
"I don't know what kicked in. But it did and and I'm happy it did," Edgin said.
Collins was the Mets' Minor League field coordinator when Edgin was drafted in 2010, and he distinctly remembers the first time he saw Edgin pitch.
"Kingsport, Tennessee," Collins said. "First of all, he doesn't have the prototypical pitcher's body [Edgin is listed at 6-foot-1, 225 pounds]. So when you see him on the mound, the first thing you're thinking is, 'OK, I want to see this.' And the next thing you know, the first pitch is 94, 95 [mph]. It gets your attention pretty good. And then you say, 'OK, there are a lot of guys with good arms. Can he throw it over the plate?' And he has. He pounds the strike zone, which shows me he's not afraid of anybody. He's not intimidated by this situation."
The manager likes a feel-good story as much as anybody, but he obviously can't let that affect the decision-making process.
"No, he's got to be able to help us. If this is going to deter his development, it's not a good decision," Collins said. "And I'm aware of that. I spent too many years in player development not to know that the time has got to be right. But he's been very, very impressive. He believes in himself. He believes in himself which is something you have to have. Confidence is everything."
All Edgin wanted is a chance. That's why he wasn't disheartened by pitching at Class A at a relatively advanced age last season, and why he's not stressed over what will happen next.
"I wasn't discouraged, because I only had one place to go. And if I didn't go there, I'm done," Edgin said. "If I don't do well, I'm gone. So I'm happy where I'm at. At the same time, I know there's more work to be done. I'm not where I want to be yet."
Maybe not. But he's a lot closer than almost anybody expected him to be at this point of his career.
Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.