Report from Mets-Sox game

Posted: March 18, 2010 in Mets

My brother Carl was in town this week for a visit, and he scored us tickets for the Mets-Red Sox exhibition game at City of Palms Park in Fort Myers yesterday.
It was a festive atmosphere, being St. Patty’s Day and all, and our only worry involved the weather. Showers were forecast throughout the day, and it rained intermittently at various times in the morning.
We arrived at the park just before 11, and the gates opened soon after.
With the nearly three-hour trip from Port St. Lucie and the unfavorable weather forecast, it didn’t surprise us to see very few regulars in the starting lineup. That didn’t really matter to me, as I wanted to see some of the Mets’ youngsters like Jennry Mejia, Fernando Martinez, Ike Davis and Ruben Tejada.
The lineup, for those who didn’t see the box score, looked like this: 1. Angel Pagan, LF; 2. Alex Cora, SS; 3. Gary Matthews Jr, RF; 4. Dan Murphy, 1B; 5. Fernando Tatis, 3B; 6. Frank Catalanotto, DH; 7. Omir Santos, C; 8. Fernando Martinez, CF; 9. Ruben Tejada, 2B; Mike Pelfrey, P.
I was thrilled to see F-Mart in the lineup, although he should have been batting higher in the order (at least sixth). I was also hoping to see Tejada at short, because I want him starting there in place of Reyes and not Cora and his declining range.
Anyway, we enjoyed watching the teams warm up. I noticed Mejia was in uniform, which I figured since it was his day to pitch. I’ve been wanting to see him up close for awhile, as the advance reports have been scintillating for the 20-year-old righty.
An unexpected treat came in the form of Johan Santana arriving on the field. The Mets’ ace jogged into the outfield where spring training instructor John Franco and pitching coach Dan Warthen were chatting with some of the pitchers loosening up. Santana joked with his teammates and headed into the bullpen, as it was his day to throw on the side. Carl and I got a birds’ eye view of the session, and Johan was looking good, throwing free and easy, showing no ill effects from his knee surgery.
As the 1:10 game time inched closer, the clouds rolled in. A light mist began falling around 12:50, much to our chagrin. I was preparing for the worst as the clouds surrounded us, but as is many times the case in Florida, the clouds all of the sudden broke and the sun peeked through just in time for first pitch!
John Lackey, who the Mets briefly flirted with in the offseason before deciding his price was much too steep, got the start against Pelfrey.
Lackey looked very good in his four innings, the Mets couldn’t get much going against him. But Pelfrey also looked very good, especially considering the Red Sox had all but one regular (Jacoby Ellsbury) in the lineup. He was throwing hard (although the stadium didn’t have a radar gun for the fans to see, annoying) and mixing up his pitches extremely well. His new-found splitter should be a big help for him. He ended up allowing a run on five hits in his four innings of work, but his command was very good. He got ahead of the hitters all afternoon and worked quickly, a good rhythm throughout.
I could barely contain my excitement when I saw Mejia begin to loosen up in the bullpen. Mejia, the Mets’ top pitching prospect, has been turning heads this spring with a top-notch cutter and big-league curveball. Some have compared his cutter to a young Mariano Rivera and his curve to Doc Gooden’s, I’m not ready to go there (let the kid do something before throwing out unfair comparisons).
Mejia entered the game in the fifth, retired the side in order on six or seven pitches and was done for the day.
Now is the section of our program where I rail against the Mets’ clueless manager, Jerry Manuel. Don’t get me wrong, Jerry seems like an extremely nice guy and is a fairly entertaining postgame interview for the press. Doesn’t make him a good baseball manager. Manuel is frothing at the mouth over Mejia’s plus big-league stuff. A starter in the minors, Jerry wants to make Jennry a setup man for K-Rod. I am opposed to this big-time. The Mets need to look no further than what their crosstown rivals the Yankees did with Joba Chamberlain a few years ago. Chamberlain, a starter in the minors, was rushed to the big leagues, where Joe Torre made him a setup guy. Sure, Joba dominated down the stretch and in the postseason, but the cost of this short-term domination could be his career. The Yankees flipped back and forth about what they thought Chamberlain should be, and right now he seems totally lost. Maybe, had he progressed in the minors, building up his innings with more success against minor-league hitters, he’d be a top-line starter by now. Instead, he struggles to get out of the fifth and has appeared to have lost all confidence.
Here’s my argument against Mejia making the Mets’ opening day roster as a setup man: Setup relievers are a dime a dozen, but number one or number two starters don’t grow on trees.
Mejia, who has five games of AA experience to his credit, should return to the minors as a starting pitcher. See what you have there. If he can dominate as a starting pitcher, you have a real gem on your hands. If he struggles or just doesn’t cut it as a starter, you can always switch him back to the relief role, no harm, no foul. But it’s much tougher to go from a reliever to a starter, because you’ve got to build your stamina and innings back up. Manuel is coming off a 70-92 season and instead of considering the future of the franchise, he’s concerned about saving his own ass. Not good and someone should step in and tell him about it, but the Mets often appear to be a rudderless boat, a car with no tires, insert other cheesy cliche here.
The other negative from the game also involves Jerry, at least indirectly. The Mets, who seemed to lead the league in bonehead plays and dumbass decisions last year, made two more in yesterday’s game.
They completely botched a rundown play which would have ended the third inning, making Pelfrey pitch to one more batter (he retired the hitter to keep it 1-0 Sox). Later, with the Mets on top 4-1 in the eighth and a runner on second, a Red Sox scrub ripped a single to left field. Instead of throwing the ball to second, Pagan wildly threw home (he had absolutely no shot anyway), allowing the hitter to take second and taking the double play out of order. WHAT? Pagan has a lot of physical gifts, but this guy often seems to have the intelligence of a cowpie. But maybe it’s not Pagan. Do the Mets not work on fundamentals enough? Or maybe there’s just no consequences when they mess up. Either way, it’s alarming and is sure to cost them a few games this season if not corrected.
Now, to the positive, namely Mr. Martinez. This kid, who has been around forever since he signed at 16, is still just 21. And it appears he’s finally putting that sweet swing and boundless talent to good use. Martinez has been ripping it up all spring with an average over .500. He stepped up in the eighth inning with the Mets down 1-0 and runners at first and second, absolutely launching a Ramon Ramirez offering over the centerfield wall for his third homer this spring. This guy may finally be putting his great talent to good use, and it’s a joy to see. Again, I’d start him at AAA to see if he can finally put a healthy season together, then bring him up later on whenever an inevitable Mets injury occurs.
Wow, this was an epic post, but just wanted to share some of my spring training experience with you. Despite some of my negative ramblings, I’m actually excited about the future of this team. I’m not sure how good they’ll be this year (they’ll be much better than last year but that’s not saying much), but 2011 and beyond is quite promising if the powers that be don’t screw it up. Never a given in Mets land.

  1. MetsFan4Decades says:

    Nice write up on a game that us NY Metro fans couldn’t watch b/c it wasn’t televised.
    And when was the last time any of us would be excited to see an out of town ST game with the ‘kids’???? This year, it is exciting with so many prospects doing well.

    Some thoughts:
    I happen to agree with you right now concerning Majia. I would really like to know if we’ve got a top of the line starter in this kid. Don’t think we’re going to determine that anytime soon if he starts on the big club in the BP.

    I’m not liking what I’m seeing overall with the defense on this team so far. Pagan has made several bone head plays this ST. Picking up where he left off last year. I just don’t know if he is ever going to have his head in the game. And that’s probably the difference between him being someone’s everyday OF starter and a backup.
    Tejada is suppose to be a slick fielding SS but he’s made several errors. Wonder if it’s nerves knowing he’s vying for a shot a going north in April.

    I originally wanted FMart to start in AAA, but I’m waffling a bit on that. If he doesn’t go north in April, I don’t think it will be too soon after we see him up.

    Let’s Go Mets!

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