The question with Mets pitching prospect Domingo Tapia has never been about talent. Scouts and front-office brass know he has the stuff. It's just been a waiting game to see whether he has the consistency to tap into all that potential.
Signed by New York as a non-drafted free agent in 2009, Tapia scattered five hits and struck out seven batters over 5 1/3 shutout innings in the Class A Advanced St. Lucie Mets' 6-1 win over the Lakeland Flying Tigers in the second game of Monday's doubleheader.
The No. 12 Mets prospect lowered his ERA to 4.08. He allowed four singles, a double and two walks and only worked one clean inning -- when he set the side down in order in the fourth.
Tapia (4-6) stranded the bases loaded in the fifth and exited with two men in scoring position in the sixth, but Robert Coles retired the next two batters to close the book on Tapia's outing.
The general scouting consensus on the 6-foot-4 right-hander is that he has three good pitches but a lack of command. Those fears were consolidated somewhat in 2013 when he walked 63 batters over 101 1/3 Florida State League innings, and he has walked more batters (34) than he has struck out (33) in his second tour with St. Lucie this year.
"We're trying to get another pitch into the mix where they can't sit on the fastball," St. Lucie pitching coach Phil Regan said earlier this season after Tapia added a slider to his repertoire. "It's been a little while convincing him, but tonight he saw the value of it. Now he can throw three pitches instead of two.
"The strikeouts will come. When he gets a little more confidence in what we're trying to do, the strikeouts will come and he'll keep his walks down."
The native of the Dominican Republic has thrown some gems this season, but for every quality start seems to be a disappointing outing.
In two starts against Clearwater and Brevard County on May 21 and 28, the 22-year-old allowed one run on a combined four hits over 11 innings. But those outings were bookended by eight runs allowed at home to Tampa and five runs given up in just 2 1/3 frames against Daytona.
Lakeland starter Logan Ehlers (3-1) took the loss after surrendering two unearned runs on four hits over 2 1/3 innings.
In Game 1, Rafael Montero fired four shutout innings in his first game back from a shoulder injury. Second baseman Phillip Evans was 2-for-3 with his fourth homer in the 3-2 victory. Lakeland catcher Austin Green went deep in the losing effort.