We're going to diverge slightly from our usual farm-report format to talk to Binghamton Mets pitcher Paul Sewald.
The 25-year-old, stat-savvy closer from Las Vegas has excelled this season, posting 14 saves and a 1.67 ERA for Double-A Binghamton. He was recently added to the Team USA roster for the Pan Am Games (televised by ESPN) and spoke to us on an off-day in Toronto.
Explain how you got selected to the USA Team.
They have to find the best group of players they can find who are not on the 40-man roster. They selected the team. They had a player get called up to the major leagues and had a mad dash to figure out who would replace him. A couple of scouts said I was the guy they needed. They called Sandy Alderson and he said absolutely I could go.
What’s your role and what’s it been like?
I pitched in the first game in extra innings. By international rules you start with first and second and nobody out. Not the best situation. We got a bunt, I walked the next batter and then I hit a guy to bring in a run. I only gave up the one run. In the bottom of the 10th we got the first guy on to load the bases and we went popup, double play. I got the loss in a situation I didn’t think I deserved it. But those are the rules. I should be in there [Wednesday] against Nicaragua.
My girlfriend and I went to the top of the CN Tower. Being on top of the world was pretty exciting.
In terms of baseball, you’ve had an "on top of the world" kind of season. What has it been like?
It's been absolutely fantastic. [Binghamton pitching coach] Glenn Abbott and I had a midseason recap before I left. I told him I couldn’t have set expectations as high as how well I feel I’ve pitched. I feel like I’ve done a great job of throwing the ball down in the strike zone and gotten a lot of weak contact. I’ve been really aggressive and it’s helped me a lot.
You’re into sabermetrics. What do you like? What are you interested in? What do you want to learn more about?
Sabermetrics offer you a great outlook for how you’re doing and how to take advantage of your opponent.
I like to take notes, if I’m facing a batter, if I can get an edge to know what they’ll do against a certain pitch or what counts will help me. FIP is my favorite sabermetric stat. It’s just about me attacking the hitter. I go for the strikeout when I get to two strikes. As a reliever it’s very important to get strikeouts. I try to get to two strikes as quickly as possible, then I try to put them away. If you use the sabermetrics the right way you can have a competitive edge on people who don’t. Baseball is hard enough. If I can give myself any edge possible then I’m going to try to use it.
I’m a huge scouting-report guy. I take notes and I think I do a good job with it. The outlets that they have in the major leagues -- this guy hits the ball here 30 percent of the time -- I really want to take advantage of those.
Do you have a plan for how you’re going to get guys out, such as Aaron Judge or Gary Sanchez (on the Yankees Double-A affiliate)?
I do. I have notes for every pitch, what kind of pitch it was, where it was, the result. On the side, I’ll note the kind of swing I saw. Here’s how he looked. It might say ‘I tried to go in, missed away and he punished it.' At least I know I thought I set him up correctly.
You went sub-2 ERA at Brooklyn, Savannah, St. Lucie and now Binghamton. But your fastball tops out at 91 and you’re not on the 40-man roster. Do you ever feel the need to say ‘Hey, I’m here. Can I get a shot?’
I’m not Sandy Alderson. I’m not Paul DePodesta. It’s their job to make sure what’s best for the team. They have shown interest. They’ve invited me to the Arizona Fall League, which is a prestigious honor. I was really excited with them letting me participate in that and Pan Am. I know they believe I’m a very good pitcher. I want to continue to show them that I’m a great option. I want to move as fast as possible but those are things I can’t control, other than going and pitching the best I can pitch. Have I gotten frustrated? Of course. But there’s nothing I can do except relax and pitch the best I can.
They’re moving me up when I deserve to be. Whenever they decide that I’m ready for the next level, I’ll learn and keep getting better. There’s still plenty I need to do to get better.
Who’s the most underrated player on the Binghamton Mets?
L.J. Mazzilli. He’s in our top 30 prospects, but I think he’ll be a future superstar He is a really, really good player who doesn’t get as much credit as he should. He impresses me on a daily basis.
Who’s the toughest hitter you’ve ever faced?
George Springer did pretty well against me in college. He hit a home run and laced a double. I remember saying in college ‘That guy is ridiculous.’
I got to face [college teammate] Kris Bryant plenty of times in practices and I handled him pretty easily [laughs]. So I still have that over him, no matter how good he is.
Which major leaguer would you like to face most?
I grew up loving Albert Pujols. So if I got to face him, it would be really, really cool to face someone I grew up watching.
Sell me on the idea that watermelon-flavored gum is good. I know you're a fan.
It started when I was going into junior year. I went to pitch and I couldn’t even breathe [it was so hot]. I needed to figure out how to pitch in the humidity. We went to a gas station and I saw Jolly Rancher watermelon gum. And I thought that probably tastes delicious. I went out and pitched fantastic. I ordered 180 packs. It helped me relax to chew gum. It allows me to slow everything down.
Last year at around the All-Star break, I ran out of gum. But they don’t make this gum anymore. Now I use Bubblicious watermelon. It’s a soothing taste. It reminds you everything is going to be fine.
Let’s close with this. Somehow, you get added to the 40-man roster and get called up. And just like in 2007 with the Rockies and Padres, the Mets and Nationals are playing one game for a playoff spot. It’s the 14th inning and there aren’t many pitchers left, and you’re pitching to Bryce Harper with the bases loaded and two outs. What are you thinking?”
The first thing I’m thinking about is how I can brag to everyone at home that I got out Bryce [laughs]. His brother and I are really, really, really good friends. I’d be excited to get him out. That would be an incredible situation. I’m not going to tell him how I’d throw him, but I have a plan that I hope and think would work against him.
Coming up a closer, those are the situations you want to be in. You want the game on the line. I’d just want to slow everything down, make a great pitch, get him out and then watch us score.
Batting Average: Ali Sanchez, GCL Mets, .368, Vincent Siena, Brooklyn, .361, Patrick Mazeika, Kingsport, .328, Jeff McNeil, St. Lucie .320, Alex Castellanos, Vegas, .314, Luis Carpo, Kingsport, .309, Kevin Kaczmarski, Kingsport .300, Jayce Boyd, Vegas, .299, Brandon Allen, Vegas, .299.
HR: Castellanos, Vegas, 16, Travis Taijeron, Vegas 15, Josh Rodriguez, Binghamton, 13, Michael Conforto, Binghamton, 10, Aderlin Rodriguez, Binghamton 10.
RBIs: Castellanos, Vegas, 56, Rodriguez, Binghamton 55, Dominic Smith, St. Lucie, 53, Conforto, Binghamton 49, Matt Reynolds, Las Vegas 48.
Stolen Bases: Wilfredo Tovar, Vegas, 23, Champ Stuart, St. Lucie, 21, Patrick Biondi, Savannah, 18, Jonathan Johnson, Savannah, 17, Jeff McNeil, St. Lucie, 13.
ERA: Merando Gonzalez, Kingsport, 2.05, Casey Meisner, St. Lucie, 2.14, Steven Matz, Vegas, 2.19, Michael Fulmer, Binghamton, 2.22, Ronald Guedez, GCL Mets, 2.25, Tyler Badamo, Brooklyn, 2.87, Edwin German, GCL Mets, 2.96, Luis Cessa, Vegas, 2.98, Robert Gsellman, Binghamton, 3.00.
Wins: Meisner, St. Lucie, 10, Gsellman, Binghamton, 9, Scarlyn Reyes, Savannah, 9.
Saves: Jon Velasquez, Binghamton, 15, Paul Sewald, Binghamton, 14, Akeel Morris, Binghamtom, 13, Jimmy Duff, Savannah, 9, David Roseboom, St. Lucie, 8.
Strikeouts: Matz, Vegas, 94, John Gant, Binghamton, 81, Casey Meisner, St. Lucie, 80, Martires Arias, St. Lucie, 76, Brad Wieck, Savannah, 74.
• Binghamton will be well-represented at tonight's Eastern League All-Star Game, with outfielder Brandon Nimmo, infielders Gavin Cecchini and Josh Rodriguez and pitcher Dario Alvarez on the Eastern Division roster. Alvarez was selected as the replacement for Paul Sewald. The game will be played at Hadlock Field in Portland, Maine, a ballpark at which the B-Mets went 10-0 this season.
• The Las Vegas 51s have two representatives on the Pacific Coast League's All-Star team -- outfielder Travis Taijeron and injured shortstop Matt Reynolds. They'll represent the team and the league in Omaha as the PCL plays the International League.
• Among the hottest Mets hitters of late is Patrick Mazeika, who has split time at catcher and first base for Kingsport in the Appalachian League. Mazeika was the Mets' eighth-round pick out of Stetson (the same school that produced Jacob deGrom). He's 6-for-11 with five RBIs in his last three games and has 11 RBIs in his last 11 games.
The left-handed hitter is 9-for-20 with two doubles, a home run and four walks against left-handed pitching this season.
• The Mets hottest pitcher of late is Binghamton's Michael Fulmer, who has an 0.48 ERA, with 41 strikeouts and five walks in 37 1/3 innings in his last six starts
• The B-Mets made a couple of moves during the break, releasing Eudy Pena, Dustin Lawley and Aderlin Rodriguez. Lawley hit 26 and 20 home runs in each of the last two seasons, but was hitting only .212 with six home runs in 2015.
• Lastly, from the department of fun -- the Brooklyn Cyclones, known for holding promotions related to TV shows, have a pair upcoming. Their game on the 18th will pay tribute to The Honeymooners (including a bobblehead bus driver) and the 19th will be Impractical Jokers Night (the stars of the show will be in attendance).
The Cylones are having fun on the field. They are 15-7, thanks to good starts by second baseman Vinny Siena (.367 batting average in 21 games) and reliever Alex Palsha (five saves, no runs and three hits allowed in 11 1/3 innings).