Last spring at this time Mike Pelfrey was struggling and there was talk – statistically speaking, it was rightfully so – he should open the season in the minor leagues refining his secondary pitches and learning to pitch with poise and guile.
Last spring at this time, Pelfrey wasn’t worried.
“I was working on things,” Pelfrey said, notably his sinker. “I knew I had time.”
He’s not ready for his Opening Day assignment – then again, who is a week into March? – but there’s no sense of urgency or concern this year after giving up one earned run on four hits in three innings yesterday against Atlanta in his second spring start.
Pelfrey is pleased with his early mechanics, saying the ball is coming out of his hand with ease and fluidity. He also has a sense of confidence knowing he has a rotation slot sewed up, which is not not to be confused with a sense of complacency.
“I’m confident in my abilities, but I still have things I need to work on,” Pelfrey said before the start of camp. “The thing I need to do is be more consistent.”
Defined, Pelfrey said consistency is for him to not get away from his fastball and lose his focus as he did during a horrid five-game stretch in July in which he gave up 24 runs on a combined 42 hits and 13 walks with only ten strikeouts in 20 2/3 innings. He had a dreadful 10.02 ERA and in three starts failed to make it out of the fifth.
That he rebounded in August with a 1.82 ERA was indicative of his growing maturity. Take away July and with a little more offensive support and better bullpen and Pelfrey could have won 20 games in 2010.
“I really think so,’’ Pelfrey said. “I was able to put that month (July) behind me and not let if ruin the entire season. I learned to not get away from my fastball. That was very important.”
With Johan Santana gone for at least the first half of the season, Pelfrey has assumed the role of ace. This is his time.