The Mets Spring Training Report: Volume 2March 10, 2010
The Mets farm system has been criticized the past few years for not having enough “major-league ready” talent. Ike Davis and Jenrry Mejia are certainly doing their part to change that.
While there has been chatter about Reyes and his thyroid, Johan Santana and his rough first outing, and David Wright’s re-charged bat, the story of camp so far has been the minor-leaguers. I mentioned last week how the 20-year old Mejia already had Jerry Manuel and Omar gushing, and now he has drawn the attention and praise of scouts and analysts across baseball.
The right-hander has not allowed a run in five and two-thirds innings, while striking out 5 and recording zero walks. The stat that stands out most for me is the zero walks, especially since the one knock on Mejia was his lack of command at his early age. Despite the early success, however, Omar has been adamant that Jenrry will start the season in double-A, even if the manager is beginning to doubt Minaya’s plan.
“He wears No. 76 and Frankie is No. 75… They might follow each other out there, if you know what I mean… His stuff, right now, at this stage, is dominating.”
Jerry was referring to using Mejia in possibly the 8th inning setting up K-rod, eerily similar to another young New York pitcher who experienced success as a set-up man.
I’m not one to get too ecstatic over one week of spring training, but everyone seems to love this kid. If Jerry thinks he can help this team in the bullpen, then I have no problem with that. Although I’d rather see Mejia fine-tune his stuff in the minors, and ultimately be used as a starter, he can always be sent back down to Double A or Triple-A if he should falter. Nonetheless, as a Mets fan, I have experienced way too many butcherings of young talent and roster situations when it comes to players and their minor-league options. Furthermore, I don’t want this to turn into a situation like Joba Chamberlain, switching between starting and relieving and limiting him to pitch counts.
Trying to one-up Mejia has certainly been first-baseman Ike Davis, who is batting .524 this spring and belted his third home-run on Tuesday. His grand slam late last week was estimated at 460 feet, and his on-base percentage is creeping close to .500. He also has three doubles and nine RBI’s. The 22 year-old hit .298 with 20 home runs and 71 RBI in 114 games for A+ St Lucie and AA Binghamton in 2009, so I think the hype surrounding him could be for real.
It definitely is Murphy’s job to lose right now, but Davis is certainly making his case for playing time and a possible roster spot. His one issue so far has been his defense, which has surprised the coaching staff considering he is a highly touted defender with “quick hands and a smooth glove.” According to Keith Hernandez, “his defense is relatively easy to fix.”
Other standouts early in the spring have been left-handed pitcher Hisanori Takahashi and outfielder Chris Carter. Takahashi struck out six hitters and allowed only one hit in a three-inning relief appearance on Monday, where 34 of 42 pitches were strikes.
“He very seldom hits the middle of the plate,” pitching coach Dan Warthen explained. “He changes speeds. He recognizes swings, works both sides of the plate extremely well. He’s a consummate professional.”
He’s been compared to Tom Glavine, in that he won’t overpower you but he has the ability to hit the catcher’s glove and nick corners on almost every pitch.
“How we use him, we’d probably have to visit that at some other point,” Jerry Manuel explained to reporters, following yesterday’s game. “If you said to me, ‘Hey, Jerry, take your best 12,’ he’d have to be in that group.”
Also making a case for himself is Chris Carter who was acquired from the Red Sox for Billy Wagner at the end of last season. Against the Marlins on Monday, Carter hit a pinch-hit home run in the ninth inning, then blasted another dinger later in the inning. The problem with Carter is he doesn’t really have a position. He can play outfield, as well as some first base, but he’s not going to wow anybody defensively. He probably is in competition right now with Frank Catalanotto and Mike Jacobs for the final spot on the bench.
The starting pitchers all made their first appearance of the spring, and it was rocky for most. Mike Pelfrey allowed four runs (three earned) on seven hits over three innings last Saturday, and even took a screaming line-drive off his knee. X-rays were negative, and Big Pelf won’t miss any time.
Good old Ollie Perez was up to his usual tricks, surrendering five earned runs on seven hits in three innings. Perez told reporters that he was just trying to throw strikes, and did not throw any breaking pitches. He felt no pain in his knee, from which he had scar tissue removed last summer.
“I thought it was an extremely positive day for him,” Dan Warthen said. “He maintained everything he’s been working on.”
Umm, an extremely positive day? I’d like to see Oliver’s numbers from a not so positive day….
John Maine was the lone bright spot of the “big four,” as Johan Santana was lit up as well in his first start on Tuesday. Maine, working with a strict limit of 40 pitches, threw only 1 and two-thirds innings against the Marlins on Monday, but was impressive striking out four.
“He threw the ball extremely well,” Jerry Manuel said of Maine. “I think that’s the best stuff I’ve seen from him since we were here in Florida about a year ago. I’m really, really impressed and excited about the way he threw the baseball.”
The most interesting story out of the starting pitchers is probably the emergence of Nelson Figueroa as the dark-horse to land the fifth starter’s job. The race appeared to be strictly between Fernando Nieve and Jonathan Niese when camp opened, but Figgy has baffled hitters early this spring. However, just as I am not concerned about Santana allowing four runs in less than two innings, I’m not ready to get excited over Figueroa and his early success.
I guess it wouldn’t be a Mets article without mentioning some injury news, so I’ll take this time to update you on Jose Reyes and his mysterious thyroid. Although Reyes told ESPN Deportes Wednesday morning that everything is fine, the Mets have released a statement that Jose has an overactive thyroid. Located in the front of the neck, the thyroid gland produces hormones that regulate metabolism, energy and other chemical processes. The symptoms of an overactive thyroid are weight loss, increased appetite, and fatigue, all of which Reyes has said he has experienced none of. Either way, Jose is not expected to return to Florida until Friday the earliest.
K-Rod was finally cleared to return to the team this week, as his pink-eye issue is no longer contagious. The closer is expected to throw in his first game of the Spring later in the week. In other bullpen news, Adam Rubin of the Daily News reported that Bobby Parnell is not pitching much in games yet because he is working on a cutter. Parnell was the early favorite to return as K-Rod’s setup man.
The Mets also signed reliever Kiko Calero, who had a 1.95 ERA in 67 games for the Marlins last season.
Next week, I’ll focus more on the regulars –David Wright, Jason Bay, Daniel Murphy, Jeff Francoeur – and how they are progressing this Spring. Hopefully Reyes will be back on the field, and Castillo will be working on pop-ups. I’ll also address the competition between Angel Pagan and Gary Matthews Jr., and whether Fernando Martinez is a legitimate option until Beltran returns. By the way, F-Mart had a 4-4 game against the Nats over the weekend, with two home runs.
Thanks for reading…..