By: Hubble Smith, Sports Editor
Former Cy Young Award winner Frank Viola will join the Las Vegas 51s as pitching coach next week after recovering from open-heart surgery in April, the team announced Friday.
Viola, 54, had been hired as the 51s pitching coach to open the season, but underwent surgery on April 2 after a spring-training physical detected an irregularity in his heartbeat. Tom Signore replaced Viola and will become pitching coach for the Brooklyn Cyclones in the New York-Penn League when play starts June 13.
Viola, who spent three years as N.Y. Mets Class A pitching coach, will be working with a depleted staff in Las Vegas. The Mets called up Jacob deGrom, Rafael Montero and Vic Black in May. Veteran Diasuke Matsuzaka was called up in April. Noah Syndergaard, who leads the team in wins and strikeouts, was placed on the disabled list with a strained muscle in his right forearm.
The Mets also brought up utility infielder Eric Campbell and outfielder Matt den Dekker in May. Campbell was fifth in the Pacific Coast League with a .355 average.
The 51s snapped their season-high six-game losing skid by whipping the Chihuahuas in El Paso and continue to lead the PCL Pacific South Division with a 34-21 record. They return to Cashman Field for a four-game homestand against their Northern Nevada rival Reno Aces May 31 through June 3. Reno has two of the Arizona Diamondbacks’ top pitching prospects in righthanders Archie Bradley and Matt Stites.
Viola will be with the Mets organization in New Jersey next week for the first round of the amateur draft and will join the 51s in Las Vegas on June 6. Las Vegas hosts the Fresno Grizzlies June 5-8.
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