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March 2010

Feliciano Now In The Mix For 8th Inning Role

 

Saed Hindash/US Presswire

Port St. Lucie -- Being around Jerry Manuel for the past 2 seasons, has been a roller coaster ride. He consistently throws things out there in his post-game press conferences that make headlines but sometimes make little sense. It is never dull and always interesting but you wonder how the players in his clubhouse feel about his "public brainstorming" so to speak.

We have all heard it before--for 2 straight years he has pontificated about batting Jose Reyes third, he claimed last year Daniel Murphy was a better hitter versus southpaws than Ryan Church and he has talked about John Maine moving to the bullpen on 3 separate occasions. But this one is a little bit different because I do believe the manager is serious this time--and he better be.

Why? Pedro Feliciano has been a good soldier for some time and has answered the bell showing durability and reliability in a bullpen that is in dire need of those 2 qualities. He is filthy against left handed hitters but right handed hitters get a real good look at him. He is trying to perfect a cutter that can help disarm tough hitters from that side of the plate but that pitch is very much a work in progress. Aside from all that, Feliciano has been too good a Met to just be paying him lip service here and I certainly hope that is not what Jerry Manuel is doing.

But there is a bigger issue here and that is the valuable right arm of Jenrry Mejia who should actually be sent to the minors to further develop that arm for a future in the starting rotation. I do understand that he has shown the ability to get hitters out as a reliever but unless he is going to be used as an 8th inning set-up man, it is pointless to put him on the Opening Day roster. Your crown jewel should never--I repeat never--interrupt his development to be a middle reliever and it seems that is where he is heading with the youngster. That would be as silly as putting Ike Davis on the bench getting 6 at bats a week when he should be getting 20-25 at bats.

So, this brings us back to the issue of Feliciano. Let's assume for the case of argument, that Pedro gets the job done but the Mets are without a left handed specialist which is essential in a division that houses Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Raul Ibanez, Brian McCann, Nate McClouth, and Adam Dunn. It will leave a gaping hole in a bullpen that will be asked to get left handed hitters out on a regular basis as early as the 6th or 7th inning.

That's the biggest reason this move would make no sense--you are plugging up one hole(assuming Feliciano can be a "crossover guy" as Jerry likes to put it) by leaving a gaping hole in another place in the bullpen. My other issue is why experiment with this in the final days of spring training? It reminds me of the scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark when Harrison Ford says, "I am making this up as I go along."

That lack of vision may make a entertaining movie but does not really work in the real world of baseball when you are a manager looking to keep your job. Then again, this could be Manuel's way of giving the beat reporters something to chew on during a slow news day. We have all seen that plate-spinning act before.


Pelfrey very confident about Mets pitching staff

 

Port St. Lucie, Florida-- After a horrible 2009 season, Mike Pelfrey spent most of the winter doing 2 things--shedding 20 pounds in hopes of having more endurance in games and spending countless hours of soul searching in hopes he can rebound from the worst year of his professional career.

"I talked to a bunch of people and I decided it was time for a mental makeover from the standpoint of not letting too many things inside my head aside from executing pitches. Too many times last year, my focus was not where it should have been and that's part of the maturing process," says Pelfrey. Part of that development included having courage to throw secondary pitches which he has done liberally here in spring training. Now, the results have been less than desirable but it is important for him to fine tune those pitches in game situations.

" If I can not try these pitches in a spring training game then I will never use them when it counts", comments Pelfrey, "and I see my splitter and my cutter getting better each time out. And lets face it that is what spring training is for." Pelfrey also mentioned his 2007 Spring Training was his best ever and all he did that year was lose his first 7 decisions once the season started.

The big Met righthander makes a solid point here because spring training stats should be taken with a huge grain of salt and in previous years, he may have hung his hat on a good spring. Still, after his 2009 season, Met fans are putting him under the microscope this spring and he has been mediocre at best. But that too is part of his mental transformation as the old Pelfrey might have let that bother him and it would have affected the way he approached his craft.

"I read the papers and hear the talk on the airwaves and I know people wanted us to be replaced but I have to laugh because this is the same staff that most people picked to win it all and it is just one year later and more importantly, Oliver and Maine are healthy. So I expect us all to rebound,"says Pelfrey. Omar Minaya is certainly hoping that will be the case because he decided to go with his 3 incumbent hurlers rather than overpaying for "B level pitching" like Joel Pinhiero or Randy Wolf.

One major league scout when asked about which of the three had the best chance to rebound did not hesitate when he said, "Pelfrey because he not only has good stuff but he has the ability to pitch deep in games which could help their tenuous situation with a bridge to Francisco Rodriguez." Late in 2008, Met manager Jerry Manuel concurred with that notion when he said,"Pelfrey is a guy who can pitch complete games because of his ability to get out of innings with a double play and so I see him as a 125 pitch a game guy rather than most of today's hurlers who tap out at 110 pitches."

That would be a welcome sight for the Mets since a return to the Mike Pelfrey of 2008 could be a clear signal that the 2010 summer will be much different than the inaugural 2009 CitiField season. And nobody will remember Pelfrey's inconsistent numbers in spring training or his 7 home run allowed in just a tad over 10 innings pitched down here in Florida. It might also provide Jerry Manuel with some much needed job security.


Pelfrey very confident about Mets pitching staff

 

 

Port St. Lucie, Florida-- After a horrible 2009 season, Mike Pelfrey spent most of the winter doing 2 things--shedding 20 pounds in hopes of having more endurance in games and spending countless hours of soul searching in hopes he can rebound from the worst year of his professional career.

"I talked to a bunch of people and I decided it was time for a mental makeover from the standpoint of not letting too many things inside my head aside from executing pitches. Too many times last year, my focus was not where it should have been and that's part of the maturing process," says Pelfrey. Part of that development included having courage to throw secondary pitches which he has done liberally here in spring training. Now, the results have been less than desirable but it is important for him to fine tune those pitches in game situations.

" If I can not try these pitches in a spring training game then I will never use them when it counts", comments Pelfrey, "and I see my splitter and my cutter getting better each time out. And lets face it that is what spring training is for." Pelfrey also mentioned his 2007 Spring Training was his best ever and all he did that year was lose his first 7 decisions once the season started.

The big Met righthander makes a solid point here because spring training stats should be taken with a huge grain of salt and in previous years, he may have hung his hat on a good spring. Still, after his 2009 season, Met fans are putting him under the microscope this spring and he has been mediocre at best. But that too is part of his mental transformation as the old Pelfrey might have let that bother him and it would have affected the way he approached his craft.

"I read the papers and hear the talk on the airwaves and I know people wanted us to be replaced but I have to laugh because this is the same staff that most people picked to win it all and it is just one year later and more importantly, Oliver and Maine are healthy. So I expect us all to rebound,"says Pelfrey. Omar Minaya is certainly hoping that will be the case because he decided to go with his 3 incumbent hurlers rather than overpaying for "B level pitching" like Joel Pinhiero or Randy Wolf.

One major league scout when asked about which of the three had the best chance to rebound did not hesitate when he said, "Pelfrey because he not only has good stuff but he has the ability to pitch deep in games which could help their tenuous situation with a bridge to Francisco Rodriguez." Late in 2008, Met manager Jerry Manuel concurred with that notion when he said,"Pelfrey is a guy who can pitch complete games because of his ability to get out of innings with a double play and so I see him as a 125 pitch a game guy rather than most of today's hurlers who tap out at 110 pitches."

That would be a welcome sight for the Mets since a return to the Mike Pelfrey of 2008 could be a clear signal that the 2010 summer will be much different than the inaugural 2009 CitiField season. And nobody will remember Pelfrey's inconsistent numbers in spring training or his 7 home run allowed in just a tad over 10 innings pitched down here in Florida. It might also provide Jerry Manuel with some much needed job security.


Reyes Set To Resume Baseball Activities

 

Port St Lucie, Florida -- The Mets have come to expect the worst when they get medical updates but when Omar Minaya got the call this morning that Jose Reyes can return to baseball activities it brought a smile to the face of the embattled Met general manager.

The thyroid levels have returned to normal for the Met shortstop and so Jose Reyes can now continue preparing for the 2010 season. But can he squeeze all of his work into 10 days in order to be ready for Opening Day? "I do not want to rule out Opening Day but we have to just wait and see. The good news is Jose came into camp in outstanding physical shape and we will see when he gets here tomorrow on how to proceed," said Minaya.

Jerry Manuel had stated when Reyes got shut down, that he would need to see him in about 10 spring training games in order to be confident he could be in the lineup on Opening Day. After today, the Mets have 11 spring training games on the schedule and Manuel would be hard pressed to be able to reach that magic number of 10.

There is more to consider here because Reyes is coming off surgery and although he rehabbed at a fever pitch in the off-season, you might want to ramp him up slowly since he has been inactive for a couple of weeks. The pressure on the Mets will be enormous to get one of their injured stars back on the field on Opening Day as a symbol to their fans but they must weigh that with what is best long-term.

Omar Minaya must give careful consideration to what is at stake here. Opening Day is one game out of a 162 game schedule and it would not be prudent to rush Reyes through the next 10 days. I am sure the Met shortstop will be heavily campaigning to be at his customary position on April 5th but he is too valuable a commodity to rush him for the sake of selling a few extra tickets.

How valuable is Reyes? Well, when news surfaced about his return to baseball activities, Angel Pagan said, "Really that is great news for us and bad news for the rest of the NL East." That illustrates how important Reyes is to the success of the 2010 season. Both Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel must be cognizant of that fact when deciding his Opening Day fate.


A Great Day For Reyes

 

 

Port St. Lucie, Florida -- For Jose Reyes, the last few weeks have been torture because he was ordered not to do anything unless of course you think sitting on your couch and watching movies is something. So, when the doctors finally cleared him to resume baseball activities today, he felt like a kid in a candy store.

It did not matter that it was a simple day of running drills that included fielding grounders and about 10 minutes of light hitting. All that mattered to Reyes is that he was back on a baseball field playing the game he loves even though he looked spent when the 90 minute workout has concluded. "All I did for the past few weeks was watch movies and sit on the couch and I really missed playing. It was tough because I worked so hard in the off-season and then this other thing (thyroid) happened but now it is all behind me," said Reyes after his first day back in Port St. Lucie.

While talking to Reyes, I got the sense that he has really matured in the past 12 months and being away from the game can do that to a player. I particularly noticed it when he was asked if he would be ready by Opening Day. "I think we just have to wait and see," said Reyes,"because I need to be in there for the whole season and as important as Opening Day is, I have to do what is best for the team." On the surface, it just seems like a politically correct answer but for Reyes it is very revealing. The younger Reyes might have indicated that wild horses could not prevent him returning on Opening Day but experience has taught the Met shortstop to think more big picture.

Reyes also indicated that he will still be tested on a weekly basis to monitor his thyroid levels and that adjustments to his diet did the trick. "I have to eat a lot of chicken and rice now and seafood is out which is tough because I love seafood," said Reyes.

The short term plan for Reyes is to continue a daily work out regimen for the next few days and then possibly play in an exhibition game this Monday which would leave him with 5 or 6 games of pre-season action to see if Opening Day is a possibility. And if he is in Jerry Manuel's lineup, it appears it will be in his customary leadoff spot. The consensus in the Met locker room is that spot is where Reyes should have been all along anyway. Jeff Francoeur agrees, " I speak from experience when I tell you that the pressure Jose Reyes exerts on an opponent from the lead off position is enormous. If he got on base in that first inning, you had to just expect you would be down 1-0."

That is the single biggest thing the Mets offense lacked in 2009 once Reyes was forced to the sidelines. And today was a day in which the Mets inched one step closer to reclaiming it and with it, the swagger that the team is in desperate need of obtaining. So much has been written about Reyes being too demonstrative when the Mets were rolling but the point everyone missed when they criticized his passion, is the Mets were indeed rolling when he was dancing. Given everything that has happened to him in the last 12 months, I am sure the Mets can not wait for the newest dance step from Reyes because that will mean he is playing and producing.



No Opening Day For Ike Davis

Scott Rovak/US Presswire

Port St.Lucie, Florida-- Ike Davis could not have shown much more at the plate this spring hitting .480 with 3 home runs while Daniel Murphy and Mike Jacobs have not exactly been ripping the cover off the ball. Yet with close to 2 weeks left in spring training, the Mets re-assigned Davis this morning for one simple reason--it was the plan all along.

They invited Davis to spring training so he could get a taste of major league pitching and get a positive vibe going into his minor league season. And if he continues his torrid pace at the plate calling him up during the season is a distinct possibility especially if Daniel Murphy struggles or if injuries pile up like they did last year.

The question remains why pull the plug on Davis now--why not wait a week or so? The answer to that question is two-fold. First of all, why dangle a possibility of making the team to your prized prospect running the risk he may take that disappointment with him at the start of his season? And secondly, it has become increasingly difficult to get Murphy and Jacobs at-bats with Davis in the mix. If you have decided on Murphy, you can not get him the necessary plate appearances if you are splitting time 3 ways in the final 10 days of spring training.

The bottom line here is Ike Davis will be playing first base at CitiField in the near future - possibly as soon as this summer. But the Mets have learned a painful lesson to what happens to prospects who are rushed to the show. You wonder how much that stunted the development of Fernando Martinez and do not think for a minute the Mets are not keenly aware of that fact.

The prevailing notion I get from the Met braintrust about Davis is that they want to be sure about him being ready for the majors when he is called up for the first time. They know that they run the risk of leaving him in AAA a bit longer than he may need to be there. But that's a risk the Mets are willing to take despite the fact that Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel have been put on a short leash.


Reyes Set To Resume Baseball Activities

Port St Lucie, Florida -- The Mets have come to expect the worst when they get medical updates but when Omar Minaya got the call this morning that Jose Reyes can return to baseball activities it brought a smile to the face of the embattled Met general manager.

The thyroid levels have returned to normal for the Met shortstop and so Jose Reyes can now continue preparing for the 2010 season. But can he squeeze all of his work into 10 days in order to be ready for Opening Day? "I do not want to rule out Opening Day but we have to just wait and see. The good news is Jose came into camp in outstanding physical shape and we will see when he gets here tomorrow on how to proceed," said Minaya.

Jerry Manuel had stated when Reyes got shut down, that he would need to see him in about 10 spring training games in order to be confident he could be in the lineup on Opening Day. After today, the Mets have 11 spring training games on the schedule and Manuel would be hard pressed to be able to reach that magic number of 10.

There is more to consider here because Reyes is coming off surgery and although he rehabbed at a fever pitch in the off-season, you might want to ramp him up slowly since he has been inactive for a couple of weeks. The pressure on the Mets will be enormous to get one of their injured stars back on the field on Opening Day as a symbol to their fans but they must weigh that with what is best long-term.

Omar Minaya must give careful consideration to what is at stake here. Opening Day is one game out of a 162 game schedule and it would not be prudent to rush Reyes through the next 10 days. I am sure the Met shortstop will be heavily campaigning to be at his customary position on April 5th but he is too valuable a commodity to rush him for the sake of selling a few extra tickets.

How valuable is Reyes? Well, when news surfaced about his return to baseball activities, Angel Pagan said, "Really that is great news for us and bad news for the rest of the NL East." That illustrates how important Reyes is to the success of the 2010 season. Both Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel must be cognizant of that fact when deciding his Opening Day fate.

 


Chris Carter Making A Late Push

 

Doug Benc / 2010 Getty Images

Port St. Lucie, Florida -- For the past few weeks, it seemed that Jerry Manuel had two options for the final spot on his roster--the power hitting Mike Jacobs or the more versatile Frank Catalanotto. That is until Chris Carter started smacking balls all around almost every ball park the Mets have invaded in spring training. "He is making a real bid that's for sure and we have a spot for a pinch hitter that's is open. His at bats have been very impressive and he is making a real case for himself. He is in the mix," said Manuel after Carter's second straight three hit game, this time in Viera against the Washington Nationals.

Carter is also one of the more interesting players in camp as he has an intensity that might be better suited for football and even Jerry Manuel has nicknamed him "The Animal". He is generally one of the first players to hit the weight room in the morning and that has caught the manager's eye as well. The one drawback to his game is he has not really found a defensive position but he insists that's not a problem saying, "I will play wherever they want to play and pinch hitting is no problem--I know how to stay sharp."

The willingness to do that could be a key component here as Jacobs has indicated he still thinks he is an everyday first basemen and might not be willing to be merely a pinch hitter. Neither Catalanotto nor Jacobs have hit the ball with the authority we have seen from Carter and that has certainly put him on Jerry Manuel's radar.

There is a lot to be said for a hungry player who has spent more years riding minor league buses than most prospects and one that might be at that crossroads that all minor leaguers are forced to face--make the show now or move on. And this fiery left handed hitter is clearly not willing to face that just yet.

With opening day just under 2 weeks away, Chris Carter is now in the conversation of earning a spot on the Mets roster. With the door creased open for him, I would not bet against him making it especially if he continues hitting the ball the way he has from the moment he arrived here in Florida. And if Jacobs and Catalanotto continue to struggle at the plate, they might both run the risk of being on the outside looking in 2 weeks from today.


What Will The 2010 Met Bullpen Look Like?

 

Port St. Lucie, Florida --Bullpens in today's major league baseball are the single biggest common denominator for playoff bound teams. The reason for that is whatever your particular weakness is--thin starting pitching, inability to score tack on runs, or shoddy defense--good relief pitching can save your season. Conversely, a poor bullpen can take every little blemish and make it an eyesore.

So, how will the 2010 Met bullpen stack up? It is a very important question to answer because beyond Johan Santana the Mets will have a quartet of pitchers who are not exactly innings eaters. As a consequence, Jerry Manuel will need to lean heavily on his bullpen which may leave a lot of Met fans uneasy. It may be particularly troubling considering how much the manager likes to mix and match in the middle innings of a game.

The first order of business would be to anoint an 8th inning set-up man who would precede the entrance of Francisco Rodriquez in a tight game but Plan A went awry when Kelvim Escobar showed up to spring training unable to pitch. In fact, he still has not picked up a ball yet here in Port St. Lucie. Plan B was Ryota Igarashi who has shown some flashes but has not really set himself apart from the rest of the competition. Bobby Parnell has been better but has still shown an inability to get lefthanded hitters out while Sean Green and Pedro Feliciano are also viewed as "non crossover guys" by Manuel.

Kiko Calero is an interesting prospect for the role especially since his numbers were very impressive last year giving up only 36 hits in 60 innings of work. That would appear to be the best resume of any of the above mentioned pitchers and he would be the leading candidate if the team felt he could be durable enough to handle the role.

And of course, there is the case of Jenrry Mejia who has dazzled the Mets here in Florida and could fit into that role. However, Jerry Manuel has indicated that if Mejia makes the team, he will be gradually weaned into the role. So, you certainly get the impression that Jerry Manuel is planning to go with an "set up man by committee" philosophy which is a slippery slope because roles will have little clarity in the Met bullpen.

With the Met manager on a short leash early in the season, how the committee performs could very well have a huge impact on his long-term job security. It will be an interesting dynamic to watch in the initial weeks of the season.