No Irish-born player has appeared in a major league game since 1945, when Joe Cleary made a single relief appearance for the Washington Senators and departed with a career ERA of 189.00. Seven decades later, left-hander P.J. Conlon is on a path toward achieving a big-league career.
Conlon improved to 5-0 with a 1.23 ERA in six starts with Columbia in the South Atlantic League after limiting Greenville to one unearned run in 6⅔ innings on Tuesday.
The 22-year-old Mets prospect grew up in California, but only became a citizen at age 16. He was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and moved to the United States at two years old.
“I’ll say I was born in Ireland and no one believes me because I talk just like normal,” said Conlon, a 13th-round pick by the Mets in 2015 out of the University of San Diego. “They think I’m messing with them, because they wouldn’t really expect that. People ask me all the time, ‘Are you a citizen?’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, I became a citizen my senior year of high school.’ So I haven’t been a citizen for too long.”
Conlon admittedly is not a hard-thrower. When he was used for one inning every five days with Brooklyn last summer after the draft because of a long college season, his fastball sat at 89-91 mph and occasionally touched 92 mph. Now, back in a starting role, Conlon sits at 87-89 mph and tops out at 90 mph.
He throws four-seam and two-seam fastballs as well as a changeup, curveball and slider.
Conlon is a strike-thrower. He has walked only four batters and hit two others in 36⅔ innings this season. He has struck out 29 during that span.
“I’ve been able to throw strikes with all of my pitches and challenge guys and mix speeds,” Conlon said. “I’m at my best when I can do that, when I’m able to throw everything for strikes, because I don’t have that great velocity.”
The University of San Diego also produced current Las Vegas reliever Paul Sewald, although Conlon was still a high school senior when Sewald was drafted by the Mets and departed. Sewald was one of the first people to text Conlon when the southpaw was drafted by the Mets last year.
Conlon’s freshman-year teammate was Golden Spikes winner Kris Bryant. That season, their program won the first-ever West Coast Conference tournament, although San Diego ended up getting bounced in a regional by a juggernaut UCLA team that went undefeated in the postseason en route to winning the College World Series.
As for Conlon’s ancestry, his father Patrick is originally from Ireland, but moved to California at roughly age 14. Conlon’s mother Susan originally is from Scotland and moved to the United States at roughly age 16. He played soccer at Cal State Fullerton. She attended Fresno State. They met late in college while both living in Orange County. After they were married, they moved to Ireland before resettling in the United States when Conlon was two years old.
Conlon also has a British passport because of his family history.
He has only visited Ireland once -- back in high school, when he was 16 years old.
“I got to see the house I lived in and the hospital I was born in and stuff,” Conlon said. “And we have a ton of family over there. It was a really cool thing.”
Average: Ty Kelly, Vegas, .427; Wuilmer Becerra, St. Lucie, .404; Vinny Siena, Columbia, .347; T.J. Rivera, Vegas, .343; Amed Rosario, St. Lucie, .331; David Thompson, Columbia, .299; Tomas Nido, St. Lucie, .295; Gavin Cecchini, Vegas, .294; Travis Taijeron, Vegas, .294; Dash Winningham, Columbia, .292.
Homers: Marc Krauss, Vegas, 5; Travis Taijeron, Vegas, 4; T.J. Rivera, Vegas, 4; Jeff Diehl, Columbia, 4.
RBIs: David Thompson, Columbia, 36; T.J. Rivera, Vegas, 24; Dominic Smith, Binghamton, 23; Amed Rosario, St. Lucie, 22; Travis Taijeron, Vegas, 20.
Steals: Champ Stuart, St. Lucie, 9; Roger Bernadina, Vegas, 9; Amed Rosario, St. Lucie, 7; Dilson Herrera, Vegas, 5; J.C. Rodriguez, Columbia, 5.
ERA: P.J. Conlon, Columbia, 1.23; Robert Gsellman, Binghamton, 1.77; Gabriel Ynoa, Vegas, 1.91; Ricky Knapp, St. Lucie, 2.20; Sean Gilmartin, Vegas, 2.48; Kevin Canelon, Columbia, 3.12; Andrew Barbosa, Binghamton, 3.18; Rainy Lara, Binghamton, 3.38; Joe Shaw, Columbia, 3.71; Chase Ingram, Columbia, 3.72.
Wins: P.J. Conlon, Columbia, 5; Casey Delgado, St. Lucie, 4; Sean Gilmartin, Vegas, 4.
Saves: Paul Sewald, Vegas, 4; Alex Palsha, Columbia 4; Chasen Bradford, Vegas, 2; Akeel Morris, Binghamton, 2; Beck Wheeler, Binghamton, 2; Ty Bashlor, Columbia, 2; Johnny Magliozzi, Columbia, 2; Kevin McGowan, St. Lucie, 2; Corey Taylor, St. Lucie, 2.
Strikeouts: Chase Ingram, Columbia, 36; Tyler Pill, Binghamton, 35; Sean Gilmartin, Vegas, 34; Andrew Barbosa, Binghamton, 32.
Jeff Wilpon and John Ricco were in Las Vegas on Tuesday to distribute 2015 NL championship rings to the coaching staff as well as players who contributed to that title -- Dario Alvarez, Sean Gilmartin, Erik Goeddel, Dilson Herrera, Johnny Monell, Rafael Montero, Danny Muno and Matt Reynolds (who was on playoff rosters but never has actually appeared in a major league game).
Utility player Ty Kelly leads all of minor league baseball with a .427 average with Las Vegas. The Mets quickly moved to sign the 27-year-old Kelly during the offseason. He originally was a 13th-round pick in 2009 by the Orioles out of UC Davis. He split last season in Triple-A with the Cardinals and Blue Jays.
Right-hander Logan Taylor, an 11th-round pick in 2012 from East Oklahoma State College, has struck out five in each of his last two relief appearances with Binghamton. He has struck out 16 in 9⅔ scoreless innings over his last five games.
Since his average dropped to .174 on April 20, former first-round pick Dominic Smith has hit .360 during an 18-game stretch. That’s the fifth-best average in the Eastern League during that span.
Beware of Binghamton right-hander Tyler Pill at the plate. He’s now a .417 career hitter. Pill was a two-way player in college at Cal State Fullerton. His brother Brett played first base for the Giants from 2011-2013 and is now playing in South Korea.
Wuilmer Becerra, the third piece acquired in the trade of R.A. Dickey, had a 13-game hitting streak snapped Tuesday with St. Lucie. He had 11 multihit games during the streak. He still is batting a league-best .404.
Former independent ball player Kevin Taylor has a nine-game hitting streak in the Florida State League, including six consecutive games with two hits. He’s hitting .373 in 19 games this season. Taylor, 24, opened the season on the bench, so he does not yet qualify to rank among the league leaders. He now is regularly starting, shuffling between designated hitter, left field and first base.
Champ Stuart is showing more selectivity at the plate this season with St. Lucie. While he is hitting a modest .234, his on-base percentage is a healthy .341 because he has drawn a team-high 18 walks. Stuart has led off in 27 of the 28 games in which he has played.
How did highly regarded shortstop prospect Amed Rosario come to receive that name from his family? Rosario indicated that his father named him Amed after a TV character on an Arabian soap opera. Rosario added that he has never seen the show and knows nothing about the character.
St. Lucie right-hander Tim Peterson struck out three of the four batters he faced in Fort Myers in his last relief appearance. That brings his strikeout-to-walk ratio to 21-to-1 this season. Peterson has a 0.73 ERA in 12⅓ innings.
Right-hander Chase Ingram (3-2, 3.72 ERA in six starts for Columbia) has started to use a windup after encouragement from Mets coaches. He formerly only pitched out of the stretch, even with no one on base.
Columbia reliever Alex Palsha, who turned 24 on Tuesday, has the highest strikeout-per-nine innings ratio in the South Atlantic League (14.4).
Patrick Mazeika is expected to return soon. He has been on Columbia's DL with an elbow strain.
“Farm Report” appears on Wednesdays during the regular season.