Mar 30

Pelfrey arguably key to season.

Now, was that so hard?

After so many stinkers last year and this spring, Mike Pelfrey finally came up smelling like roses last night. At least somebody wearing Pelfrey’s number did.

PELFREY: Time to get serious.

Yes, I realize it is one game after so many bad ones, but spring training is for getting your hopes up, and if not for Pelfrey, then for whom?

One run on three hits in 6.1 innings is a quality start, one I’d take every time, and one reminiscent of 2010 when for most of the summer he was all the things he was supposed to be.

Pelfrey significantly regressed last year and by his own admission said this could be a make-or-break season for him. If he duplicates last year, it is easy to see the Mets cutting ties with him. They’ve already bounced that around in passing this spring, but realistically had no other choice but to keep him.

He had a bum ankle early in camp, but his arm seems fine. He has experience. He’s been successful at times, although inconsistently so. He has a reasonable salary ($5.68 million). He’s young enough to turn it around. There have been a lot of late bloomers in the sport (Nolan Ryan and Sandy Koufax come to mind). While not saying he has the potential of either, two summers ago he had months of dominance worthy of the hope of seeing it again.

Because of his inconsistency, Pelfrey’s value to the Mets is greater with the hope of him turning it around. And, with pitching their biggest concern – and no guarantees with Johan Santana – if the Mets are to have any semblance of a competitive team they need Pelfrey to start cashing his potential chips.

A lot of things must happen for the Mets to avoid the season everyone is projecting for them, and it begins with Pelfrey to quit licking his fingers and start pitching to his expectations. Beginning now.

Aug 30

Today in Mets’ History: Casey, then Sandy bid farewell to Shea

Casey Stengel, who broke his hip five weeks earlier, announced his retirement as manager of the Mets on this date in 1965.

The following year on this date, Bob Friend beat Sandy Koufax and the Dodgers, 10-4, at Shea Stadium. It would be his final decision against the Mets as he retired after the 1966 World Series. Davey Johnson, then the second baseman of the Baltimore Orioles and the future manager of the Mets, would get the last hit off Koufax.

Stengel eventually had his number retired while Koufax is a frequent visitor to the Mets spring training camp in Port St. Lucie, Florida.

 

Jun 30

Today in Mets’ History: No-hit by Sandy Koufax.

On this date in Mets History, the Mets fell to one of the great ones in 1962 when Sandy Koufax threw the first of his four career no-hitters, winning 5-0, at Dodger Stadium.

KOUFAX: Said to have had the ``left arm of God.''

To illustrate the strange nature of the sport, the previous day the Mets drew 16 walks to win 10-4.

Koufax issued five walks and struck out 13 Mets, including Rod Kanehl, Cliff Cook, Elio Chacon, Chris Cannizzaro and Ray Daviault twice each.

BOX SCORE

In 20 career starts against the Mets, Koufax was 17-2 with a 1.44 ERA, including 14 complete games.

KOUFAX CAREER

Koufax had a dominating six-year run from 1961-66, when he was named the National League MVP in 1963, and won the Cy Young Award in 1963, 65 and 66. His career was cut short at the age of 30 with arthritis.

At 36 years and 20 days, he was the youngest entry into Baseball’s Hall of Fame.

Koufax played basketball at the University of Cincinnati, and played for the baseball team in 1954. He was scouted by the Dodgers, but the report was lost.

Koufax later tried out for the Giants and Pirates – neither of which offered a contract – and the Dodgers again. This time, he was signed for $6,000 with a $14,000 signing bonus.

A close friend of owner Fred Wilpon, Koufax is a frequent visitor to the Mets’ spring training facility in Port St. Lucie, Fla., and tutors the pitchers most every spring.

After a long drought, Koufax is back in the Dodgers’ family. The Dodgers hired him to be a minor league pitching coach in 1979, but he resigned in 2000, the departure blamed on an uneasy relationship with then Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda.

Koufax severed ties with the Dodgers in 2003 when a New York Post article wrote of his sexual orientation and implied he was gay. Both the Post and Dodgers were owned by Rupert Murdoch at the time. Koufax resumed his relationship with the Dodgers when Frank McCourt purchased the team in 2004.

Mar 08

March 8.10: Maine goes today.

John Maine isn’t a project the way Mike Pelfrey and Oliver are, but he’s a question nonetheless. When healthy, the Mets have a reasonable idea what to expect from Maine, once considered a throw-in in the Kris Benson with Baltimore.

But, how healthy is Maine?

“It feels fine,’’ Maine said at the start of spring training when asked about his surgically repaired shoulder. “It feels like it did three, four years ago.’’

Three years ago appeared to be a breakout year for Maine, who made 32 starts and went 15-10 with a 3.91 ERA. However, Maine complained of fatigue in his shoulder the following summer and eventually missed his last seven starts because of surgery to remove bone spurs in his shoulder.

Surgery was deemed successful, but by his own admission he rushed his comeback saying “maybe I was trying to make up for lost time.’’

Maine made only 15 starts last season and went 7-6 with a 4.43 ERA. Maine’s biggest problem last year was an inability to amp it up and pitch out of trouble. He came back at the end of the year to show he was recovering, then modified his off-season program by starting later and throwing less.

Today’s start against the Florida Marlins won’t be about getting people out as it will be another test for his shoulder and to see what he might have picked up working with Sandy Koufax earlier this spring.

Koufax had Maine using a longer stride when delivering his fastball and concentrating on working on the inner half of the plate.

When healthy the Mets have a good idea from what to expect from Maine, although the organization believes the potential ceiling is higher with Pelfrey and Perez.

“I think being able to go out there every five days,’’ Maine said when asked the key for a successful season from him. “When I do go out there I generally give the team a chance to win.’’

Here’s the line-up behind Maine:

Angel Pagan CF
Fernando Martinez RF
David Wright 3B
Jason Bay LF
Daniel Murphy 1B
Rod Barajas C
Russ Adams 2B
Ruben Tejada SS
John Maine RP

Mar 03

March 3.10: Positive reports so far on Perez.

It’s only spring training, and more to the point, it is only throwing off the mound and batting practice in spring training, but the reports so far have been good on Oliver Perez, beginning with his upbeat attitude and showing up in good shape.

PEREZ: Hoping for the best.

Perez spent the offseason working out as a sports institute in Arizona, where he worked on his conditioning and mechanics.

It is the latter where the first spring impression has been the greatest, with Perez throwing with a consistency, from his wind-up to his arm slot to his delivery. The result has been a better command and movement on his pitches. This is also something Sandy Koufax preached to Perez during his visits to Port St. Lucie.

Perez, entering the second season of a three-year contract, is slotted third in the rotation behind Johan Santana and Mike Pelfrey. In 2007, Perez won 15 games for the Mets to give us a glimpse of what could be. The last two years he’s shown more of those glimpses, but all too often gave us the Bad Ollie.

The Mets, thinking of those positive moments, didn’t bite on rotation help this winter, instead believing in the promise of Perez and Pelfrey. So far, the Mets have been pleased with how he’s throwing, but we’ve heard that before.

Spring training is for the promise of better things, and here’s hoping Perez keeps the headscratching to a minimum this year.