Spring Training got underway this weekend when the New York Mets opened their slate of games with two against the Atlanta Braves and one against the University of Michigan Wolverines. There was plenty to like about some of the performances, but there was a lot to hate as well. The Mets found some power from unexpected players and learned a little bit more about who will make up this team.
Here are some of the big headlines from this past weekend.
Second base competition still close early in camp
The Mets are looking at incumbent Luis Castillo, the constantly moving Daniel Murphy and the Rule-5 pick Brad Emaus right now. Manager Terry Collins has prospect Justin Turner, utility man Chin-Lung Hu and Ruben Tejada to consider as well. However, all are long shots for the starting job.
In Saturday's opener against Atlanta, Castillo went 1-for-2, turning two double plays in the field. On Sunday, Castillo went 1-for-2 again and scored a run. Castillo has seen more time in the field than Emaus and Murphy, but considering Collins' emphasis on offense from second base, he has a long road ahead to make this team.
Emaus had a hit, scored a run and walked twice in Sunday's split-squad game against Michigan. If the Mets are looking for power, Emaus should be their first choice, having hit 15 home runs in the minor leagues last season and also showing great plate discipline.
Who should start at second base in 2011?
Murphy, looking to try his third different position in as many seasons, went 1-for-3 on Sunday against Atlanta, including a two-run double that came with two outs. If Murphy is unable to win the second base job outright, he's likely to find a bench spot out of Spring Training.
Jason Bay looks to bounce back from 2010's concussion
Bay went 1-for-2 with two RBIs on Sunday against Michigan while playing left field. His single to left field in the third inning came with two outs and the bases loaded and scored Jose Reyes and Luis Castillo. Bay—who says he's fully recovered from the concussion he suffered last July which cost him the rest of his season—is looking to bounce back from a disappointing season in which he hit just six home runs.
Strong debuts from Chris Young and Chris Capuano boost rotation candidacy
Capuano pitched three innings against the University of Michigan in the Mets' split-squad game Sunday. He surrendered three hits, one earned run, while striking out four and walking none. His fastball sat right around 86 mph, the same as his average last season. Capuano is trying to become the Mets' No. 5 starter, competing mainly against Dillon Gee. Being a left-handed pitcher may give him an advantage over Gee.
Young was equally impressive on Sunday against Atlanta, allowing no runs in two innings of work, striking out two. Young is also trying to make the starting rotation, and is all but assured a spot if he can show he's healthy and strong enough for a full season, something he hasn't been for two years.
Oliver Perez is still the same old Ollie, struggles in first appearance of Spring Training
Perez pitched two innings on Sunday against Atlanta, and he didn't give manager Terry Collins any reason to keep him around much longer. Perez surrendered four runs, on four hits, in two innings of work. Control was once again a big problem for Perez, as he walked three batters. He also struck out three.
He issued three consecutive walks with two outs during the Braves' three-run fourth inning. The odds of Perez earning a spot in the starting rotation are slim, but Collins hasn't ruled that out yet. Perez may also find himself in the bullpen as a lefty reliever, but another showing like he had on Sunday and Perez may find himself without a team, despite his $12 million salary.
Bullpen options look solid in limited work so far
Mets bullpen candidates Pedro Beato and Taylor Buchholz were both impressive in their Spring debuts. Beato started Saturday against Atlanta and pitched two innings, allowing three hits and one earned run on a solo homer to Eric Hinske. Beato threw all eight of his pitches for strikes and induced six groundballs. Beato, the Mets' Rule-5 pick this year, showed great command and a great sinker.
Taylor Buchholz, one of the many Mets reclamation projects added during the offseason, struck out three over two innings of work. He threw 15 pitches, 14 for strikes. If he can reclaim his 2008 form, Buchholz will be an excellent addition to the Mets bullpen.
Carlos Beltran will officially move to right field for the 2011 season
With the excellent performance of Angel Pagan last season and the questions surrounding Beltran's surgically repaired knee, the Mets had raised the possibility of moving Beltran to right field. It was said that Beltran would be given a chance to prove he can still play center field full time, but it appears the Mets have made the decision for him. A recent announcement was made that he'll be making the move to right field.
The move is probably the best thing for Beltran, who may be able to spare some wear and tear on his knee, making it easier to stay healthy. It's been widely speculated that Beltran could be traded mid-season, as he's entering his final contract year with the Mets. To do so, Beltran has to stay healthy and produce, and a move to right field should make that easier.
It's still very early in Spring Training and there are still plenty of games to be played. The Mets have had a lot of questions answered, but things can always change. Oliver Perez currently looks horrible, while Chris Young and Chris Capuano appear locks in the starting rotation. Pitching coach Dan Warthen has said he'll look to start eliminating rotation candidates around March 10, so we'll get a better idea of who will fill the No. 3 and No. 5 spots in the upcoming weeks.
The Mets' No. 1 starter, Mike Pelfrey, will make his spring debut today against the Washington Nationals, who will give Bryce Harper, last year's No. 1 draft pick, his first at bats in the pros.