Padres impressed by Lamet's wicked change

Rookie righty keeps Mets guessing with 8 strikeouts in debut

Padres impressed by Lamet's wicked change

NEW YORK -- The New York City skies rained on Dinelson Lamet's debut on Thursday night. The Mets couldn't.

The inclement weather at Citi Field didn't faze the Padres' 24-year-old right-hander, who dazzled over five innings in his first Major League start. Lamet struck out eight and allowed only one run -- a second-inning Lucas Duda homer -- in a 4-3 win.

So how was Lamet, ranked as the Padres' No. 10 prospect by MLBPipeline.com, feeling after his first start and his first win?

"Feliz de la vida," he said.

Happy with life. And why shouldn't he be?

Lamet became the first Padres pitcher to rack up eight strikeouts in his debut since Bob Shirley in 1977. With Trevor Cahill (right shoulder strain) shut down for at least another week, Lamet appears poised to remain in the rotation for the foreseeable future.

Lamet got off to the best start imaginable, striking out Michael Conforto -- arguably the hottest hitter in the National League -- on three pitches. He punctuated the at-bat with a 98-mph fastball that Conforto couldn't catch up to.

"He's nasty, man," said catcher Austin Hedges, who caught Lamet last season at Triple-A El Paso. "He's got really good stuff. Fastball's electric. ... The changeup was really impressive today. I don't remember his changeup being that good."

Lamet has dominated at all three levels in the Minors since the start of last season. During his quick rise through the system, he relied almost exclusively on his fastball/slider mix.

The Padres weren't quite certain two pitches would equal sustained success at the big league level. So Lamet began to regularly include a changeup. It began in Spring Training and continued into his eight Triple-A starts this season.

On Thursday, in his most stressful situation of the night in the fifth inning, Lamet dialed up the changeup again, striking out Conforto for the third time -- this one with runners on first and second and one out.

"The 3-2 punchout of Conforto -- that's a big league pitch," Padres manager Andy Green said. "That's a really good pitch for a guy where that doesn't come off as his primary weapon. He was attacking with the fastball, mixed in the slider, and the changeup was probably the biggest surprise, for me."

After striking out Conforto, Lamet got Jose Reyes to pop out to left field, ending his night after 91 pitches -- 61 for strikes. It was quite the debut, especially on a night where weather threatened to nullify his outing entirely.

"I'm always trying to be prepared," Lamet said. "That doesn't change. I go out there ... I visualize what I'm going to do in the game, and I just get ready to go out there. After the first pitch, I just let it take care of itself."

Lamet made two appearances in Spring Training. He couldn't find the strike zone in either, walking five hitters over one combined inning. In that sense, his command was among the most impressive aspects of his MLB debut.

So, too, was his ability to put aside any concerns about the weather and stifle a Mets offense that had hung 11 runs on the previous two Padres starters.

"He was relaxed all day, calm through five," Green said. "... It's good to see a guy wired that way. Usually that type of wiring plays well in the big leagues. That type of stuff has a chance. For him, it's going to be: Throw strikes. Your stuff is plenty good to get guys out."

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.