Dunn with the bullpen: Mets first-rounder set to start in Brooklyn

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Dunn’s just begun!

Mets first-round draft pick Justin Dunn has pitched three games as a Cyclone so far this season, giving up one run in six innings of relief. Soon, however, Dunn’s role in Brooklyn will change when he joins the team’s starting rotation. The former Boston College ace will toss three stanzas per appearance to protect his arm. Dunn has impressed from the get-go, but Brooklyn manager Tom Gamboa said it’s still too early to put any extra pressure on the 20-year-old.

“His athleticism and the looseness of his arm and his stuff is reminiscent of a young Doc Gooden,” Gamboa said.

Gamboa’s comparison, however, may add some fuel to the expectation-fire. Dunn’s stats during his junior season with the Eagles also helped create a reputation for the right-hander before he took the mound as a pro.

The 6-foot-2 ace struck out 72 batters in just over 65 innings last season, leading Boston College to the program’s first-ever National Collegiate Athletic Association Tournament Super Regional appearance. He finished the season with a 2.06 earned run average — fourth on the Eagles’ single-season record list — and held opposing batters to a .214 average.

Gamboa noted that it was easy to see why the Mets selected Dunn with the team’s first-round pick in this year’s draft after watching the righty throw a 97-miles-per-hour fastball with ease. The Cyclones manager was impressed with Dunn, but Gamboa is determined to keep things as normal as possible — particularly now that the first-rounder’s role is evolving.

“He’s well aware that everybody knows he’s a No. 1 — all the eyes are on you,” Gamboa said. “And we’ve done everything we can to just tell him to just pretend he’s pitching at Boston College. You don’t have to impress us, because you already did.”

The Mets program is careful with its arms and has Dunn pitching once a week on a strict schedule. It doesn’t bother the Long Island native. In fact, the schedule has helped make the transition to pro ball easier.

“Whenever I get a chance to get the ball, it’s just work for me,” Dunn said. “I’ve pitched out of the pen, so I’m used to getting ready quick, but I also do take the starter mentality out there where I’m backing off and just trying to let my stuff work.”

Dunn’s mechanics have led to high praise from the Cyclones, including Brooklyn pitching coach Billy Bryk Jr.

“My first game report, I put him at the very least being a third man in the rotation in the big leagues, and then also possibly a back end guy,” Bryk Jr. said. “His arm works so well, it’s got longevity. It’s so fluid in his delivery. He’s got a very sound, polished delivery.”

Dunn’s pitching schedule may change once he becomes a starter, but it won’t change the way he looks at the game. And if Gamboa is right, Dunn is already primed for a run at the big leagues.

“As good as he is on the mound, he’s a better guy off the field,” Gamboa said. “He’s very intelligent, he’s very humble, he observes everything and, as is not always the case, he was immediately taken in and liked by all of his teammates because of his personality. And that’s a credit to him and the way his folks raised him, because he’s definitely the way you want your youngster to grow up to be like.”

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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