The underlying belief in Minor League baseball is that one of the biggest leaps in talent level is between Class A Advanced and Double-A. After spending a season and a half in the Florida State League with St. Lucie, Justin Dunn heard all about that line of thinking.
So one can forgive the Mets' third-ranked prospect for being nervous heading into his Double-A debut Sunday with Binghamton. Those nerves didn't faze him as Dunn gave up two hits and four walks while striking out nine over seven innings in the Rumble Ponies' 6-0 win over Trenton at Arm & Hammer Park.
Video: Binghamton's Dunn fans ninth hitter
"I've always heard that Double-A is the biggest jump," Dunn said. "So I was a little nervous about making mistakes over the middle of the plate and falling behind hitters."
Those concerns were unfounded.
Dunn walked the first batter he faced, Gosuke Katoh, and put another runner on base when he plunked Trey Amburgey with two outs. But he got through the inning unscathed.
"It was a pretty cool moment," the Boston College product said. "After spending a year and a half in the FSL to finally get the promotion was great. It was good to hear the excitement in my family members' voice when I let them know the news. It made it even better, knowing I was coming back closer to home."
The Freeport, New York, native settled down in the second, striking out Jhalan Jackson and Angel Aguilar as part of a 1-2-3 inning. Dunn walked Katoh again, this time with one out in the third, but induced a double play grounder from Mandy Alvarez.
Gameday box score
Dunn's former Golden Eagles teammate, Michael King, pitched six innings out of the Trenton bullpen. Having one of his closest friends from college and a familiar face opposing him helped Dunn relax in tough situations, he said.
In the fourth, Dunn used another double play -- this time off Jackson's bat -- to escape trouble after Amburgey walked and Devyn Bolasky singled with one out in the fourth. The right-hander retired the side in order in the fifth and worked around a one-out single by Alvarez in the sixth.
Back on the mound for the seventh, Dunn issued a leadoff walk to Bolasky but again coaxed a timely double play, with Jackson rolling over a low and away slider for the second time. The pitch was key for Dunn with runners on base.
"Those [double plays] were huge, and I credit my defense big-time -- none of those were easy by any means," the 22-year-old said. "But I was thinking ground ball in those situations, so to be able to execute my plan is a great step. I was going to my slider facing righties, I was trying to get something breaking down and away from barrels."
Dunn finished his outing by striking out Aguilar.
"That was a pretty good one, but I wish the walks weren't there," the 2016 first-round pick said. "I was just trying to go out and give my team a chance to win."
Dunn threw 57 of a season-high 98 pitches for strikes and has not yielded a run over 19 innings in his last three starts.
In Binghamton, he'll work with pitching coach Frank Viola, a former Cy Young Award winner who's helped mold many of the arms who've reached the Majors with the Mets.
"So far, it's been great," Dunn said. "I threw for him once and had a pretty good outing in Spring Training. He likes to keep things simple, which I love. In St. Lucie, I was working hard with my pitching coach, Marc Valdes, on some mechanical stuff with the tempo of my delivery. And Frank is just helping me pick up where I left off."
Dunn also felt that his performance Sunday validated the organization's decision to promote him.
"It shows that I belong here," he said. "But mainly, it shows that all the hard work this offseason is paying off."
The Mets promoted second-ranked prospect David Peterson from Class A Columbia to Class A Advanced St. Lucie earlier Sunday. One of the happiest to hear the news was Dunn, who's close with the left-hander and said he loves that the pair is rising through the system in unison.
"We actually just got off the phone," he said. "I wouldn't say there is a competition, honestly, we just want to be the best we can for the Mets organization because if we are blessed enough to make it up together, we just want to be able to help the big club win."
Mets No. 4 prospect Peter Alonso plated Tim Tebow with a single in the third. Jhoan Urena, the club's 17th-ranked prospect, also delivered an RBI single, while Jeff McNeil went 3-for-5 with two runs scored.
Yankees No. 12 prospect Jonathan Loaisiga (3-1) took the loss after surrending four runs on four hits with four strikeouts in two innings.