New York Mets Spring Training: Weekend Recap, Pitcher Updates and Lineup Battles

Ash MarshallSenior Analyst IFebruary 28, 2011

New York Mets Spring Training: Weekend Recap, Pitcher Updates and Lineup Battles

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    The New York Mets got their spring training schedule under way this weekend with an intra-squad game Friday, a home-and-home series with Atlanta and a split-squad game with the University of Michigan Wolverines.

    Chris Young made his case for a spot in the starting rotation and Pedro Beato and Dillon Gee both turned in solid performances on the mound. Oliver Perez was his usual wild self and further inched his way out of the club.

    Jordany Valdespin, Chin-lung Hu and Mike Nickeas all showed promising signs, and Willie Harris proved he isn't just a Met killer.

    Here's a look at a recap from the opening weekend, an update on the starting pitcher and bullpen positions up for grabs and a look ahead to the pitchers likely to feature in the upcoming games today and tomorrow.

    It's less focused on David Wright, Jose Reyes and Jason Bay and more about the players who are fighting for roles in 2011.

Jenrry Mejia Stars Strong, Still Destined for Triple-A

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    Mejia allowed one unearned run on a hit and a walk while striking out three over two innings of work.

    He displayed a high 80s fastball that topped out at 92 MPH and a cutter with late movement that came in anywhere from 84-87 MPH.

    I was most impressed, though, with his curveball. It's a big breaking pitch with 12-to-6 downward movement. He got two of his three strikeouts on curveballs, including a beautiful 2-2 pitch to Jordan Schafer and a full count offering to Brooks Conrad that stranded a runner on third.

    His command was spotty, and he obviously needs to work on his relationship with Josh Thole, but overall, it was an impressive first outing. The only run came on a breaking ball in the dirt that bounced past Thole.

    Still, however good he is this spring, management have said he's almost certain to start in Buffalo, where he'll be stretched out more as a starter.

Unexpected Power

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    On Friday, Brad Emaus hit two home runs in his first two at-bats of the spring in a intra-squad game.

    On Saturday, Fernando Martinez hit a two-run homer to right field in the fifth inning, and Willie Harris took a belt-high pitch the opposite way for a two-run home run to knot the game at 5-5 in the bottom of the 10th.

    Russ Adams then hit a go-ahead three-run homer on Sunday, and Cody Holliday homered against the Wolverines.

    Considering the Mets power is likely to come from David Wright, Ike Davis and Jason Bay, this was encouraging.

    Emaus did himself a big favor considering Sandy Alderson has said he sees second base as an offensive position, and Harris helped his own cause considering he has no more than a 50-50 shot to break camp with the team.

    F-Mart will start at Triple-A unless an outfielder goes down during the spring. Neither Adams nor Holliday will make an impact this season.

Beato's Ground Ball Makeup

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    Pedro Beato is competing for a spot in the bullpen, and he did his case no harm with two solid innings of work against the Braves in Port St. Lucie.

    He got six ground ball outs, and his pitching coach got a nice look at his sinker and changeup. The latter was particularly sharp considering we've not even turned the calendar to March yet.

    Beato got into a little bit of trouble when he tried to get ahead early in the count by piping a fastball down Broadway. Eric Hinske hit the first pitch he saw for a solo homer to right field, and Freddie Freeman ripped a double to left on his first offering.

    He will give up hits, but he'll generally let his defense make plays behind him. A lot of double plays could get turned with Beato on the hill.

Taylor Buchholz Impresses

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    Yes, it's only spring training and, yes, pitchers are generally well ahead of hitters at this point, but Buchholz looked good.

    He scattered two hits, plunked Nate McLouth and fanned three over two innings of middle relief, even if those two hits were cracked hard.

    His fastball was in the mid-to-high 80s as expected and he also incorporated a high 70s change and a wicked mid-70s curve that he used to strike out Jason Heyward and Brooks Conrad.

    He also covered first base well on a grounder to the right side of infield, which is nice to see early on. He should still be in line for a spot on the 25-man roster.

Unknown Impact

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    Two lesser-known Mets made a good first impression of the spring on Saturday.

    Mike Nickeas, seen by some as a career minor leaguer last year, looked comfortable behind the plate. He blocked pitches in the dirt and showed off his arm, throwing down to second base.

    Jordany Valdespin also looked good in his first game of the Grapefruit League. He made a highlight reel diving stop to rob Joe Mather of a hit when he ranged to his left and then turned on a fastball for an RBI double with one out in the ninth.

    What was especially encouraging to see on that defensive play was that it came on a hit and run. He didn’t leave his position too early to cover the bag, and that split second gave him enough time to shift his body weight back toward first base. 

    Valdespin got another at-bat on Sunday against the Braves, walking and scoring a run.

    Nickeas might have a shot as the backup catcher for Opening Day, but if he does make the team, it will just be for a week until Ronny Paulino returns. Valdespin will start 2011 in the minors.

    Not as impressive was Lucas Duda, who ground into an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded in the fifth inning and then popped up with the bases full with two down in the ninth.


Manny Acosta

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    Acosta gave up three hits and a pair of walks over two innings on Saturday.

    His fastball hit 90 on the radar gun, and his changeup came in at 76 MPH. Complemented by a mid-80s slider, that is a nice trio of pitches.

    He needed just seven pitches to get through the eighth inning, but he then gave up a go-ahead run to Lucas on a hanging breaking ball and what would have been a RBI single had it not been erased on appeal.

    He's tough on left-handers, but he is still right on the bubble of cracking the roster.

A-Rod Still a Little Way Away

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    Armando Rodriguez gave up two runs on three hits in the 10th inning of Saturday's game. It was a little rough outing, but it's not all as bleak as the box score suggests.

    He gave up a ground ball over second base and then a grounder through the hole. After J.C. Boscan dropped down a perfect sacrifice bunt, he then gave up a run on an infield chopper to Hu.

    The only real mistake was the hanging breaking ball to Lucas that scored Ramirez.

    He's a sinker-slider pitcher and that low-to-mid-70s slider is a nice weapon running away from right-handers.

Chin-Lung Hu

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    Hu is destined for a backup infield role, and he looked pretty solid on Saturday.

    He did well to stop a wild throw into centerfield on a pickoff attempt from Taylor Buchholz in the fifth inning, and he executed a hit-and-run perfectly in the ninth when he slapped the ball the other way between first and second base.

    Hu, who finished 1-for-3 with a walk, was also unfortunate not to throw out a runner at the plate when he charged a chopper in the 10th. He drew a walk as a ninth-inning pitch hitter on Sunday.

    All in all, he looked solid, and that's all the Mets can expect. He's still in line for a spot on the 25-man squad.

Chris Young Makes His Case

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    Chris Young made a strong case for his inclusion at the back end of the Mets rotation with two perfect innings on Sunday against the Braves.

    He needed just five pitches in each of the two innings. He retired four batters on the first pitch and struck out the other two (Chipper Jones and Freddie Freeman) on three straight pitches. He threw 10 pitches, all strikes.

    Right now, he's probably first in line for the No. 4 spot in the rotation, behind Mike Pelfrey, R.A. Dickey and Jonathan Niese.

    He spent last season with San Diego and went 2-0 with a 0.90 ERA in four games. He spent the majority of the season on the DL with a strained right shoulder.

The Train Wreck That Is Oliver Perez

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    Really, Ollie? Really?

    Sunday's appearance was just another nail in the coffin that is earmarked for Perez.

    He gave up four runs on four hits and three walks in his two innings in relief of Young against the Braves on Sunday.

    Joe Mather turned on the first pitch he saw to double with one away in the third, and Martin Prado plated Mather with two outs in the inning.

    The fourth inning was where it came undone, though.

    With two outs and a runner on first, Perez walked Alex Gonzalez and David Gonzalez to load the bases and then walked Mather to force a home run.

    Shawn Bowman then had a two-run single to left to make it 4-0, and the inning only came to an end when Mather got caught in between second and third when he was unsure whether to advance or not.

    There's no way Perez is making the 25-man roster.

Pitching Alternatives

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    I don't have Boof Bonser or Pat Misch making the team out of camp, but both did okay in their first appearance of the spring.

    Bonser gave up a lone hit over two innings in Disney, and Misch tossed three shutout frames to finish the game. Misch struck out two and induced five groundouts and a popup over 14 pitches. Only one ball left the infield, and that's a great sign.

Notes from Michigan Win

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    The Mets split-squad game against the University of Michigan was not televised, so here are the highlights:

    • The Mets won 7-1, holding UM to four hits.
    • Chris Capuano allowed one run on three hits in three innings. He fanned four and didn't walk a batter.
    • Dillon Gee struck out four and walked one in 2.1 innings of relief.
    • Tim Byrdak and Blaine Boyer each tossed a 1-2-3 inning in the eighth and ninth respectively.
    • Wilfredo Tovar went 2-for-3 with a run, and Brad Emaus reached base safely three times and scored once.
    • Cody Holliday hit his first homer of the spring, a two-run blast in the seventh. He won't be making the Opening Day roster.

On Deck: Pitching Probables

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    Mike Pelfrey is expected to start today's game in Washington in Port St. Lucie. Right-handers Josh Stinson, D.J. Carrasco and Manny Alvarez are also scheduled to pitch a couple innings each in that game. It is also thought that Jason Isringhausen will make his spring debut in the contest.

    On Tuesday, the Mets travel to Viera for the second half of the home-and-home with the Nats. Jon Niese will go against former Met Livan Hernandez.

    The other pitchers likely to make an appearance include right-handers Manny Acosta, Pedro Beato and John Lujan—who all pitched in Saturday's game—Boof Bonser and Blaine Boyer and southpaw Tim Byrdak.