The Mets Spring Training Report: Volume 1March 3, 2010
The Metropolitans opened spring training this week, engulfed in cloud of pessimism created by their bruised and battered fan base. Despite a riveting 4-2 victory over the Braves in the Grapefruit League opener yesterday, “The Amazings” enter 2010 with their lowest public expectations since the 2004 season.
Vegas pegged their win total at around 83 wins this week, quite a step down from Sports Illustrated’s proclamation during spring training ’09 that the Mets would win the World Series. Yes, Jason Bay is here, and yes Jose Reyes laced a triple off the first pitch he saw this spring, but also in attendance is the sporadic Mike Pelfrey, the Stephon Marbury of baseball Oliver Perez, and the Mets version of Chad Pennington in John Maine. Despite the crispness of Johan Santana’s change-up so far this spring, the rest of the starters have more question marks than the Riddler.
The most impressive so far has apparently been Perez, who according to Matt Cerrone has looked sharp, consistent and balanced.
“I’d say I watched him throw a good 30 pitches, maybe more, he had essentially the same delivery on each pitch, and not once did he spin around, he finished each throw square to the batter, both feet on the ground.”
I hate to sound like such a downer, but I’ve heard this shit way too many times about Ollie….and it never seems to end well.
Not all is gloom and doom in Port St. Lucie, nonetheless, as the Mets top two prospects have dazzled onlookers. First baseman Ike Davis is thought to be one-year away from making a splash in the majors, and almost every scout thinks he will be an all-star player moving forward. Manuel said he likes Ike Davis a lot, and described him as being ‘rhythmic,’ and, ‘poetic,’ while comparing him to John Olerud.
20-year old phenom pitcher Jenrry Mejia according to Darryl Strawberry possesses a “Mariano esque” cutter that can reach 96 mph. Manuel likes Jenrry Mejia a lot, and, though he doubts he’ll make the Opening Day roster, because “he’s so young,” he could certainly pitch for the big league team at some point this season. Manuel described Mejia’s cutter as being ‘natural,’ but he needs to work on his command.
There is also the talented, but injury prone, Jonathan Niese who Jerry Manuel anointed as the front-runner for the 5th-starters job, provided he is healthy.
Besides the starting pitching, sans Santana, the two biggest question marks for the Mets entering camp have to be first base and the 8th-inning setup role. I’ll leave the catcher position out because I love the Barajas signing and don’t mind his .240 average if his incredible defense holds up.
It’s no secret how I feel about Daniel Murphy, and once again Jerry and Omar are risking their jobs, in my opinion, with the Irish Hammer. Despite leading the team in home runs with a whopping 12 dingers in ’09, Murphy will need to really elevate his game for the Mets to be successful. The previously mentioned Ike Davis is without question the first baseman of the future, but the Mets are sticking by their guns and will hold Davis back for at least the first 3-4 months of the season.
Besides Ike and Murph, there is the inconsistent Mike Jacobs who was signed to a minor league deal. This was a good pick up by the Mets as they hope Jacobs can rekindle that magic of the 2008 season when he hit 32 homeruns and knocked in 93 runs. There is no risk involved…only a possible reward.
Kelvim Escobar was penciled in as the stepping-stone to K-Rod, but it is unlikely Escobar will be ready by opening Day. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if he never pitches an inning in 2010, as he entered spring already injured. The job now falls in the hands of two candidates- Bobby Parnell and Ryoto Igarashi.
Parnell was extremely effective as the 7th inning guy last season, but faltered once his role elevated to the 8th inning. The 98 mph fastball is still there, so a good spring could land Bobby in the 8th inning once again.
The Japanese reliever Igarashi agreed to a $3 million, two-year contract this winter.
Igarashi went 3-2 with a 3.19 ERA and three saves in 56 games last season in Japan. His main pitch is a screw-ball of sorts, and he earned the save in yesterday’s spring training game against the Braves. Like Parnell, a good spring could make Ryoto the set-up man for Francisco Rodriguez.
One other story, or battle, to keep note of this Spring is the centerfield competition between Angel Pagan and Gary Matthews Jr. All signs point to Pagan getting the job, but Matthews appears much healthier this spring and could take the role if Pagan disappoints in Port St. Lucie.
Jerry Manuel also appears to be set in batting Jose Reyes in the 3-hole, because “like Barry Larkin, Jose understands the difference between run production and getting on base and stealing a base.”
According to Omar Minaya, Luis Castillo needs to play a more aggressive second base, but thinks Luis will be able to put up similar offensive numbers in 2010 that he did in ’09.
In the end, Jerry Manuel, Omar Minaya, and the “Coupons” believe there are lots of players on the team that feel like they have something to prove, not just from last season, but from the last few years.
“We’ve got some serious scores to settle,” Manuel said, saying he wants his team to be aggressive and free, “because we have some talent we can’t shackle, it’s got to be free.”
Check back next week for volume 2 of the Mets Spring Training Report as “The Amazings” try to work their way back to respectability and dethrone the Phillies in the NL East.