Jordany Valdespin is not an easy person to like, and especially hard to cheer for. Ask a question and he’ll often mumble an indifferent and inaudible answer.
VALDESPIN: Decked by Verlander (AP)
He exudes confidence on the field, but crosses the line with a brash attitude, tendency to showboat and not always hustle. Off the field he wears a bright red baseball cap reading “JV 1.’’ He often carries himself with an “I own the world,” persona that goes beyond confidence, so much that manager Terry Collins has warned him to tone it down a notch.
Last year, Valdespin fell out of favor with the Mets despite hitting five pinch-hit homers. He didn’t help himself in the offseason when he was suspended in winter ball. Even so, with Kirk Nieuwenhuis out with a bruised left knee and Daniel Murphy sidelined with a strained right side, Valdespin is being given every opportunity to make the roster in the outfield or as a second baseman.
Valdespin has produced, but with a caveat: He plays to his own soundtrack.
Here’s today’s Mets lineup against Detroit at Lakleland.
Jordany Valdespin, 2b
Ruben Tejada, ss
Ike Davis, 1b
Lucas Duda, lf
Mike Baxter, rf
John Buck, c
Travis d’Arnaud, dh
Matt den Dekker, cf
Brandon Hicks, 3b
Jonathan Niese, lhp
LINEUP COMMENTS: The Mets are giving Valdespin every chance to make this team. His versatility helps him. He’s at second today and has played center and right this spring also. … Duda had three hits the other day against Houston. He’s in left today hitting behind Davis. I am wondering if Terry Collins will stack the two lefties during the season. … den Dekker again in center. He’s Mets’ best defensive outfielder, but they don’t know if he’ll hit enough. He has five hits, including a homer this spring.
Do not read into Zack Wheeler’s demotion that the Mets think Jenrry Mejia will replace Johan Santana on the roster and in the rotation.
When I asked Terry Collins of his preparation plans for life without Santana to start the season, the name Jeremy Hefner was only one to pop out. And, without hesitation.
MEJIA: May pitch today.
Collin McHugh, who was also demoted to the minor league camp, made spot starts last year and could be in position again if something were to develop with Hefner.
Mejia’s development this spring was hindered when he reported late because of a visa issue and was further delayed with the thyroid ailment. He is scheduled to open the season at Triple-A Las Vegas.
Pitchers start at two innings or 30 pitches and like to work up to seven innings and 100 pitches. There’s no way Mejia can build himself up to that with the time remaining in camp.
Mejia was on the travel squad this morning to Lakeland, where the Mets will play the Tigers again.
The Mets set back Mejia’s career when they rushed him to the majors as a reliever – there was no set relief role – then optioned him back to the minors as a starter at which time he injured his elbow and needed Tommy John surgery.
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.