As most pitchers and catchers will beginning reporting to camp in the next few weeks, Nelson Figueroa's audition for a spot on the New York Mets' pitching staff is already under way.
According to the Associated Press, Nelson Figueroa struck out eight hitters in a 7-1 complete game victory against Mexico's Hermosillo club. Figueroa is competing with Fernando Nieve and Jon Niese, if healthy, for the fifth spot in the Mets' rotation behind Johan Santana, Mike Pelfrey, Oliver Perez, and John Maine.
Figueroa, who signed with New York as a minor league free agent, can also pitch out of the bullpen.
As for Figueroa, his only embarrassment on Wednesday was a solo home run by Mexico's Carlos Valencia in the eighth inning.
Last season, Figueroa went 3-8 with a 4.09 ERA in 70 1/3 innings for the Mets. Coming off five consecutive losses last September, the right-handed pitcher allowed four hits in a nine-inning shutout against the Houston Astros in his final start of the season on Oct. 4. He also went 7-5 with a 2.25 ERA in 112 innings for Triple A Buffalo in 2009.
Figueroa's Dominican Republic teammate, Fernando Martinez, is also looking to secure a spot with the Mets. The outfield prospect hit a two-run home run in the first inning against Mexico and finished 2-4 with two runs scored and two RBIs.
Martinez appears on track to start the season at Triple A Buffalo because he is blocked in left field by Jason Bay for the next four years and center fielder Carlos Beltran is signed through 2011. Jeff Francoeur is the Mets' right fielder and Angel Pagan and Gary Matthews Jr. will compete for the center field job.
As much as I like F-Mart, he doesn't seem like the best fit for the job in centerfield, so I was relieved when I saw that Pagan and Gary Matthews Jr. were going to duke it out for the short-term job.
Other than that, I am really glad that Nelson Figueroa is on the right track. I'm going to pray that he will continue to impress the Mets so that he can land the No. 5 spot in the starting rotation. I like his confidence, his mixing of pitches, and his composure when he gets into sticky situations, which is something the Mets always seem to find themselves in one way or another.