MESA, Ariz. — Anthony Banda’s brief Mets tenure is most remembered for the time he helped win an 11-inning game in Cincinnati last July 19 in his first appearance for the franchise.
But when the lefty reliever, who was designated for assignment at the end of July, reflects on his two-week stint with the Mets, he’s most proud of the fact he got to call Jacob deGrom a teammate.
“I don’t think I will see another guy like that in my career,” Banda said Wednesday after a bullpen session at the MLBPA’s workout camp. “When I watched him and just the way he goes about his business that is pretty cool. I had no idea.”
DeGrom had already been placed on the injured list with elbow discomfort when Banda arrived to the Mets, and the team’s ace didn’t pitch again for the season’s remainder. But it was the manner in which the two-time Cy Young Award winner pushed himself that left an impression on the 28-year-old Banda.
“He was very determined to figure out what was wrong with him, but in addition to that he was very determined to stay on top of what he needed to as far as what he could, whether it was lifting, running,” Banda said. “I have been on the shelf before and I have seen guys, and nobody I was around that did that, so it was pretty cool. Just seeing the hard work he did.
“To see somebody who is already at the top and just continuing to work hard, I was like, ‘That is f–king awesome.’ I want to see that guy pitch. Unfortunately my time there was short.”
DeGrom, who hasn’t pitched since before the All-Star break of last season, will become a Mets focal point once the lockout is resolved and players can report to spring training. Under MLB rules, club officials have been prohibited from communicating with the right-hander since Dec. 2, when the lockout was implemented.
Dozens of players have been working out daily at the MLBPA camp, which allows attendees to face live pitching and hitting from their peers at a time they would normally be participating in such activities at their respective spring training sites. The players who have participated are largely from teams that hold spring camp in Arizona. Other players reside in the region.
Banda, who finished last season with the Pirates, said it will be “cool” to tell his grandchildren he briefly got to call deGrom a teammate. Watching deGrom pitch as a teammate would have elevated the experience.
“I don’t want to say depressing or I feel sorry for him, because you can’t control the injuries,” Banda said. “But I wanted to watch him pitch. Just like everybody else. Everybody is a fan of him. They needed him, but you can’t put the blame on anything or anybody because that happens.”
As for his Mets debut, Banda was the winning pitcher in a 15-11 game in which he allowed two unearned runs over 1 ¹/₃ innings in relief with the bullpen on fumes. Banda received an at-bat in the 11th inning and reached on a fielder’s choice, giving him a great perspective of what happened next.
“[Kevin] Pillar hit a home run and I was on first base,” Banda said. “That was my first time seeing a big league home run from first base. That really got me jacked up. Those are games people talk about, ‘Remember that crazy kid?’ ”