Mets reliever Eric Orze hopes extra weight helps him last the season

PORT ST. LUCIE — There is a bit more Eric Orze this season, though his arsenal might be smaller.

The Mets relief prospect said he played at 195 pounds last season, and after an offseason of strength work, the righty is up to 209 pounds.

He hopes the extra weight will help him last through a long season that could feature his major league debut and will include a whole lot of splitters.

Orze, who is a resilient, two-time survivor of cancer, hopes that throwing his best pitch more often will lead to better results.

Mets prospect Eric Orze AP

Orze was a fifth-round pick in 2020 who has overcome more than most. He was diagnosed with and beat testicular cancer while at the University of New Orleans.

In the immediate aftermath, a doctor examined him and saw a mole that soon was revealed to be cancerous. So he fought off skin cancer, too, before reaching the Mets.

He skyrocketed through the system in 2021, touching Triple-A Syracuse, but his rise has stalled since.

Orze’s low-to-mid-90s fastball velocity is not a calling card, and he features a slider and a cutter that will be new this season. But his splitter — a bottom-drops-out pitch that induces consistent whiffs — would be his ticket to the majors.

Orze said he was throwing his best weapon about 30-35 percent of the time for the majority of last season, which became a struggle. The flexible reliever, capable of taking down an inning or two or three, was walking a lot of batters and allowing a lot of hard contact through Aug. 29, when he sported a 6.48 ERA with Syracuse.

He then ran off 11 scoreless, two-hit innings in which he struck out 22. During the season-ending span, he said, his splitter rate spiked to 60-65 percent, with his slider, in particular, working well in tandem.

Mets prospect Eric Orze came into spring training having added weight in the offseason hoping to give himself more stamina. Corey Sipkin for the NY POST

“It’s something that’s unique,” Orze said about his splitter. “Let’s use your best weapon. Let’s not overcomplicate this.”

In looking back at his upper-minor struggles for parts of the past two seasons, Orze has seen a lot of damage has been done against his lesser offerings. In 2022, he struggled with the long ball — allowing 11 home runs in 50 ¹/₃ innings — and found that his splitter was rarely the problem.

“When you go back and look at video, all the home runs are like middle-middle fastballs in pretty neutral counts,” Orze said. “My fastball’s not my best pitch, one. [Two], I’m in a count where a hitter’s probably going to be waiting for a fastball. And I went, ‘Oh, here you go.’”

Now, he hopes, leaning more heavily upon his splitter could help him reach Citi Field, where the Mets surely will need relief help at times this season.

Prospects Brett Baty and Mark Vientos, who are the front-runners for the third-base job, will see a “probably 50-50” split of reps at the position during the Grapefruit League, manager Carlos Mendoza said.

The two shared reps at third base during drills Friday alongside the rest of the team’s starting infield. Joey Wendle got the reps behind Francisco Lindor at shortstop.

Shintaro Fujinami is flying home to Japan to tend to a personal matter, the Mets said. The club believes the righty still will have time to ramp up and be ready by Opening Day.