Good Saturday morning. A little talk in the clubhouse about the USA losing last night to Mexico. The operative word being “little.’’
I’ve only been here a few days, but trust me on this one, after doing 20 some spring trainings the days are usually all alike. We’re usually in the clubhouse by 7:45 in the morning, sometimes earlier depending on where the game is that day.
The first thing most players do is head straight to a corner wall where the lineup is posted. Most guys know the night before if they’ll be playing, but it is a force of habit for many.
The Mets’ clubhouse has changed over the years. Once shamed about not honoring their past, photos of Mets’ alumni are plastered over the walls. Tom Seaver, Ed Kranepool, Darryl Strawberry, Keith Hernandez, Dwight Gooden, Mookie Wilson and Jerry Koosman.
Always fun to look at.
It is too soon to say much definitive about Terry Collins’ 2013 Mets other than it has the makings of a long year.
Twice this afternoon, the frustrated Mets’ manager answered seemingly innocuous questions about his roster with a curt, “It is March 8.’’
PARNELL: Making strides.
One silver thread out of today’s 3-2 loss to Detroit was reliever Bobby Parnell, who pitched a 1-2-3 sixth as he’s settling in to the closer job with Frank Francisco destined to open the season on the disabled list with a sore right elbow.
Parnell could always throw hard – sometimes in triple digits – but had trouble with command of his secondary pitches. That wasn’t the case against the Tigers.
“My curveball is working really well,’’ said Parnell. “Last year, I was inconsistent with my curveball. Today I was able to able to throw it for strikes early in the count.’’
Parnell was aggressive and attacked the hitters, and perhaps most importantly threw his curveball in counts where the hitter would normally be expecting a fastball.
“His breaking ball has really improved,’’ Collins said. “I loved his demeanor. He’s going after hitters like he knows he’s going to get them out.’’
Good morning from Lakeland. Just arrived. The drive was a little over two hours, straight highways all the way through past Yeehaw Junction, dozens of orange groves, junkyards, farms and dilapidated motels.
The weather is nice, but it wasn’t a pretty drive.
The Tigers play in a place called Joker Marchant Stadium, built in 1966. It has been renovated several times. There’s a hill behind the left field fence, much like what the Mets have at Tradition Field in right.
The Mets’ bus just arrived and I’ll be heading to the clubhouse in a few minutes. The Tigers are taking batting practice and there’s only a few people in the stands.
They all can’t throw like Matt Harvey this time of spring.
Overpowering and arguably flawless in yesterday’s start against Miami, Harvey had one of those seamless starts pitchers rarely have in their third spring training game.
GEE: Continues comeback today.
Dillon Gee, today’s starter against Detroit in Lakeland, has no such illusions.
“My mechanics are off,’’ Gee said. “It will be just my third start of the spring, so they are bound to be off. Spring training is for trying to figure out that kind of stuff.’’
Gee insists it is not an injury-related mechanical problem, but a matter of working off the rust that is a natural occurrence this time of year. It’s part of the process of getting ready to make 30 stars a summer.
“It’s all about location,’’ said Gee as he laced up his shoes while sitting at his locker yesterday afternoon. “Location is all about repetition early in spring training. I’m trying to refine everything.’’
As it is with Harvey and Jon Niese, Gee said mastering his change-up is the pitch he most needs to refine that will tell him if he’s ready to start the season. A change-up is thrown with the same motion as the fastball, and even though the pitcher uses the same grip, he releases the pitch with a different pressure on the ball.
“The change-up is such a feel pitch,’’ Gee said. “It takes time to feel comfortable with it. … Having good results would be good, but the important thing is to feel comfortable with all my pitches and improve my location.’’
Here it was, the fifth inning and Terry Collins was sending out Matt Harvey again. With his pitch count down, Collins had sent Harvey out for the fourth and was doing it again.
Harvey’s command was that good.
HARVEY: Brilliant today.
“I was very impressed (by his pitch count),’’ Collins said. “If he’s going to pitch 215 innings, he’ll be getting deep into games and pitching to contact.’’
A lot of things will have to click for that to happen, notably his change-up. In today’s 4-1 victory over Miami, most everything did with his change-up being superb.
“Awesome,’’ was how catcher Anthony Recker described it. “He had solid command of everything. He was getting ahead of them. Everything was working well. He was definitely locked in.’’
Harvey threw 48 pitches, 35 for strikes. He struck out five and didn’t allow a hit. The Marlins’ only runner came on an error.
“If I’m going to pitch seven, eight innings, I need to have a decent walks-to-strikeouts ratio,’’ said Harvey, who spent a lot of time before this start studying video of his change-up.
“That was something I was looking at from the video,’’ Harvey said. “I was concentrating on staying back. I threw a lot of good ones.’’