New York Mets
Ronny Paulino's adjacent locker remains empty as he still deals with visa problems related to his 50-game MLB suspension for being flagged for a performance-enhancing substance. And with Paulino still having eight regular-season games left on that ban, Mike Nickeas very likely will benefit and crack the Opening Day roster.
After all, it's a much cleaner move to have Nickeas, who is already on the 40-man roster, break camp with the team and option him after eight games than to have Raul Chavez or Dusty Ryan serve in that capacity. Those other catchers in camp have major league experience. But Chavez would need to be designated for assignment and then exposed to waivers to send him to Triple-A Buffalo once Paulino is activated. Ryan requires a slightly cleaner maneuver because he has minor league option remaining, but 40-man roster room still, largely unnecessarily, would need to be created.
Chavez, who turns 38 on March 17, has appeared in 263 major league games since 1996. His first major league hit came on Sept. 2, 1996 with the Montreal Expos as a pinch-hitter against San Francisco's Jose Bautista. Ryan appeared in a combined 27 games for the Detroit Tigers in 2008 and '09.
"All I know is it's a better situation than I was in last year," Nickeas said. "I'm looking forward to the opportunity. We've got some good guys here, too. You never know what can happen in this game. I think I've put myself in a good position. Hopefully I can perform this spring and prove that."
Nickeas was called up in September and joined the Mets in his adopted hometown of Atlanta, where he played for Georgia Tech. Defensively sound, he appeared in five games, starting three times at catcher. Acquired from the Texas Rangers in 2006 for outfielder Victor Diaz, Nickeas went 2-for-10 with five strikeouts after the promotion.
"Being able to play at Wrigley was awesome, but the first hit at Citi Field was definitely the highlight," Nickeas said, referring to a single against Milwaukee's Yovani Gallardo.