Well Slap My Ass and Call Me Sally
Mike Pelfrey, hoping to secure the fifth spot in the Mets' rotation, allowed four runs in five innings on Sunday against the Astros. The young right-hander felt disappointed, but shortly after the game, his mood brightened markedly when manager Willie Randolph told him that he has made the starting rotation.
I didn't think it would happen, but it has. Mike Pelfrey's inclusion to the rotation is certainly exciting being how long the Mets have gone without having a homegrown pitching prospect come up through the ranks that was this highly touted. I do not expect him to have a typical rookie season and I expect him to be a productive pitcher that will challenge the defacto aces on this team for ace status of the New York Mets. Though he had a rough outing on Sunday, Keith Law saw a lot of positives.
His arm slot is more conducive to throwing a slider, and his slider flashed average or even a tick above average on Sunday. The pitch improved as the game went on, with Pelfrey clearly gaining some confidence in it by the third inning (and then throwing five or six in a row). At its best, the slider was 83-85 mph with a short but sharp break, decent tilt, but most importantly it showed enough lateral movement to fool hitters who were waiting on his fastball or change, both of which are straight.
Of course, Pelfrey hung a few sliders and threw several with an earlier-than-ideal release, which isn't shocking for a guy throwing a new breaking ball. His change was its typical fringe-average self, and his fastball was down a tick to 92-95 but with its usual superb sink. Given the rest of the Mets' rotation, it's fair to say the Mets' hopes for a playoff spot depend as much on Pelfrey as on any other single player on their Opening Day roster, and the signs Sunday were positive.
The key for Pelfrey was always developing two average pitches to compliment his ++ fastball. Keith Law may be a lot of things, but he is still a talent evaluator and has a bit more expertise in the area than most baseball writers. Him calling Pelfrey's slider above average at times is certainly nice to hear about a pitch he has not been throwing all that long. If Mike can develop two plus pitches, he could replicate Verlander's '06 season with ease in the lighter hitting National League. Of course he will struggle at times with his slider, but if he can keep making huge strides, he will be the Mets ace of 2007 and I did not see that as a possibility at the end of 2006.
When told Sanchez is out til August, closer Billy Wagner turned to Aaron Heilman, who will likely assume role of primary setup man, and said: "guess that means Aaron you've got three innings and I've got one."
The bullpen is set with Schoeneweis, Feliciano, Wagner, Heilman, Park, Sele, and Smith. I've said it before and I'll say it again. The Mets are going to have an overabundance of big league capable relievers. At this point in time, things look a bit thin. However, later on when Mota returns and some of the guys on the farm progress, the Mets will have ample depth for a late season injury fill in.
At this point, the only thing that can hurt Lastings Milledge in his quest to make the Opening Day roster is a serious injury. Which is why it was doubly painful yesterday when Milledge was nailed on the right hand by a fastball from Astros reliever Matt Albers in the ninth inning.
Milledge collapsed to the ground, clutching his right hand, and left the game with trainer Ray Ramirez holding his wrist. Fortunately, X-rays were negative, but Milledge is expected to miss the next few days with what the Mets described as a contusion of the right hand.
"The big thing for Jorge is that he maintains the consistency he enjoyed in '05, and I think being healthy from the beginning will help that," Friedman said. "His role has yet to be determined, but I'm confident Jorge will help the Rays win games in '07."
If that sounds cryptic, it might be. Cantu has heard the rumors he could be sent down - "It would be a really bad slap at me" - as well as chatter that he could be traded, with the Mets among those said to be interested.
Keeping Upton on the infield might mean Jorge Cantu is available. The biggest obstacle there is trying to get any deal done with the Tampa franchise and unfortunately, I see little chance of the Mets and Rays finding a fit between the two teams. The Rays will no doubt ask for Pelfrey or Humber in any such deal and the Mets will undoubtedly decline.
"I don't think there's anything he needs to say or do," said closer Billy Wagner. "He knows he made a mistake. We know he made a mistake.
"It's a Catch-22. I know that the organization is not condoning what he did. But it would have been a huge loss for us if he was not signed back.
"Do I feel like he needs to apologize to all of us? No. He's going to be scrutinized every time he goes out and has a tough outing and even if he has a good one. He's a good man and there are a lot of good men who make mistakes."