If Mets pitching prospect Luis Cessa had any nerves in his season debut Sunday afternoon, they didn't show. In fact, he was as good as he's ever been since joining the Mets as a teenager seven years ago.
Cessa allowed one hit over seven shutout innings in the Double-A Binghamton Mets' 6-2 win over the host Akron RubberDucks at Canal Park. The 6-foot-3 right-hander struck out eight batters, did not allow any walks and threw 58 of 78 pitches for strikes.
"The first start of every season ... there are some nerves, but nothing to get crazy about," Cessa said through teammate Gilbert Gomez. "If this wasn't my best [game], it was one of the best. I had no walks and the command of my fastball was amazing.
"A lot of the competition here is good. I saw some hitters throughout the series that are capable of making adjustments, but my fastball was outstanding today. When I have stuff like this, nobody has a chance against me."
Signed as a non-drafted free agent at age 16 in 2008, Cessa fell four strikeouts shy of his personal best, set for Class A Savannah against Charleston on Aug. 5, 2013. Sunday's start represented the third time he has pitched seven innings without giving up a run. Cessa credited a strong two-pitch mix for his success.
"Overall, I felt good," the 22-year-old said. "As the game went on, I was more and more focused and I was able to command my pitches. The fastball and slider were the two pitches I used the most. The second time through the lineup, I was throwing the slider to start guys off and the fastball to finish them. I threw a couple changeups and curveballs to lefties, but it was mainly a fastball-slider combination. The fastball was moving a lot with some late life."
Cessa spent his rookie year in complex-level leagues in the Dominican Republic and Florida and went 5-4 in 13 short-season starts for Brooklyn the following year. In 2013, the right-hander won a career-high eight games with Savannah in the South Atlantic League, fanning 124 batters across 130 frames and posting a 3.12 ERA. He went 7-9 with a 4.26 ERA in 21 starts between Binghamton and Class A Advanced St. Lucie last season, striking out 86 batters over 118 1/3 innings.
As in previous years, the Cordoba, Mexico native has a specific aim for the season.
"The goal is to finish a level above the one where I started, so my goal for this year is to get to Triple-A, or in the bigger picture, the Major Leagues," Cessa said. "I just have to compete every time."
B-Mets right fielder Brandon Nimmo smacked a solo homer in the sixth inning for his first long ball of the year to snap a season-opening 0-for-14 drought and center fielder Gomez tripled, doubled and scored once out of the No. 9 spot.
Beck Wheeler surrendered a pair of ninth-inning runs and struck out three batters over the final two frames to earn his first save of the year. Binghamton's pitching staff has compiled an 0.67 ERA in the past three games and finished one inning short of posting three straight shutouts for the first time in franchise history.
"It was pretty good," said Gomez. "First couple at-bats, I was just trying to make contact and see what the pitcher was trying to do. This team is amazing because every hitter we have has the mentality of a warrior. We battle and never give away at-bats. It's amazing when you're in a lineup like this."
Akron starter Mike Clevinger allowed one run on three hits and a walk while striking out four batters over six frames.