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2016 Mets season preview: Jeff Walters

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The 28-year-old returned from Tommy John surgery last year and is back on the Mets' 40-man roster.

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Right-handed relief pitcher Jeff Walters has been in the Mets’ organization since the team took him in the seventh round of the 2010 amateur draft. Believe it or not, it was the fifth time he was drafted, as the Giants, Nationals, Indians, and Orioles had drafted him in the drafts spanning 2006 through 2009. Now 28 years old, Walters has come back from the Tommy John surgery he had early in the 2014 season.

At the time of his surgery, Walters was pitching in Triple-A Las Vegas. He’d had a nice year in Double-A Binghamton in 2013, with a 2.09 ERA, 9.6 strikeouts per nine, and 2.6 walks per nine. That season also earned him a spot on the Mets’ 40-man roster that offseason.

In his first 21.1 innings in Triple-A, Walters struggled, but that can probably be chalked up almost entirely to the state of his elbow at the time. He was removed from the 40-man roster following the 2014 season, which again could be chalked up to his then-recovering elbow.

Last year, Walters made it back on the mound in late June for the Gulf Coast League Mets, and after a few games there, he pitched in a few for the High-A St. Lucie Mets. After a few games there, he was promoted to Double-A Binghamton, where he spent the rest of his season. Across those three levels, he had a 2.45 ERA in 29.1 innings with 10.7 strikeouts and 1.8 walks per nine innings.

Jeff Paternostro saw him both before and after the surgery and had him throwing 91-96 miles per hour in 2013. When he saw him last year—early in his rehab—he was throwing more 90-92. The Mets put him back on the 40-man roster following the season.

Coming into spring training, Walters didn’t seem like he’d be one of the top contenders for the Mets’ pair of open spots in their bullpen, and to the extent that spring training results can change a front office’s mind about something, the early returns in spring games haven’t been good. But Walters was seen as a potential major league reliever before his surgery, and it won’t be surprising if he makes his way up to the big leagues sometime this season—especially if he pitches as well in Las Vegas as he did in his return to the mound last year.