Nelson Figueroa’s tenure with the Mets may have ended prematurely in the right-hander’s mind, when the Mets designated him for assignment at the end of spring training and he ultimately was claimed by the Philadelphia Phillies.
Still, Figueroa’s 32 career games in a Mets uniform meant a lot to the Brooklyn-raised pitcher -- and his family.
As has been noted earlier, Figueroa’s mother and brothers bought his father, Nelson Sr., a brick at Citi Field to commemorate the pitcher’s first win in a Mets uniform. The family presented Nelson Sr. a picture of the brick as a Father’s Day gift. It reads:
ON 4-11-08 MY SON PITCHED FOR THE METS, AND I DIED AND WENT TO HEAVEN.
N. FIGUEORA SR.
“It was his quote that The New York Times had about how him being at the game, he got a chance to see me win on April 11, 2008, and he died and went to heaven,” Figueroa said Friday, before the Mets opened a series with Figueroa’s new employer. “Being a Met fan, it was everything he had hoped for -- me getting drafted by the Mets, persevering for so many years to get a chance to put on the Met uniform and start and win my first game as a Met. It was a great moment for my dad and for me and my family. So they brought him the brick for Father’s Day. My mom and my brothers bought him the brick. They had it put in during the offseason. They have a copy of it sent to the house. So my mom put it up by the TV so while he’s watching the games, it’s right there.
“That was the team we grew up rooting for. That’s his team. He’s had to fight the Yankee fans living in New York his whole life. And when you have a chance to say, ‘My son is playing for the Mets and my son won a ballgame in a New York Met uniform,’ it meant a lot to him.”
Figueroa is 1-1 with a 3.38 ERA and a save in five appearances since joining the Phillies. The save, which came in the 11th inning Wednesday in San Francisco, was the first of his career.
“Now what do I need -- 549 more to catch up?” Figueroa said with a laugh, alluding to Trevor Hoffman’s major-league-record total. “It was great. Last man standing kind of thing. I wouldn’t have it any other way. It wasn’t pretty, but I got the job done. So I got a save. I can say I’m a complete pitcher now.”
Figueroa also made a spot start for the Phillies in Arizona last Saturday, in his adopted hometown. He allowed two runs in five innings in a no-decision in what became a 3-2 Philadelphia win. Figueroa had a large cheering section from his daughter’s elementary school.
“I volunteer there in the offseason, so we started thinking about being out there with the Mets,” Figueroa said about a group gathering at the stadium. “And then when I changed to Philly, it kind of got rushed. They had a girl scout outing the night before and then the school sold 104 tickets. We got them taken care of. The Diamondbacks were great accommodating us, so we had a nice little cheering section.”
Figueroa had cleared waivers six times in his career before getting claimed by the Phillies this time.
“I got lucky. The right place at the right time,” he said. “They had some injuries come up and I was able to jump right in and I was able to help out right away. It’s been a lot of fun being on a winning team. It’s been great. I definitely wanted to come here and show all of the abilities that I had and what I could provide for this team -- some added insurance for the rotation, some added insurance for the bullpen. And I got a save out of it, too.”
Is he disappointed about not getting a start against the Mets?
“That would be me putting everything into one game,” he said. “Now I have a chance to hopefully be in three games.”