Second-base competitors Brad Emaus, Daniel Murphy, Justin Turner and Luis Hernandez reached base in a four-run ninth as the Mets rallied for an 8-7 win against the Braves in Port St. Lucie. While Emaus is the projected Opening Day second baseman, it was Hernandez who had the game-winning hit, with a bases-loaded, two-out infield single.
David Wright, who had been pulled in the seventh inning, greeted victorious teammates with high-fives as they entered the clubhouse.
“Nice placement,” Wright told Hernandez.
“Murphalicious,” he then told Murphy.
To which Murphy replied: “It took a small village to get it done.”
The game details:
New York Mets
• Mike Pelfrey cruised into the fourth inning, when the wheels came off in a seven-run frame for the Braves. The first seven batters reached against Pelfrey, the first six on hits, and the final on a fielding error by Wright.
Terry Collins pulled Pelfrey mid-inning, after his pitch count in the frame got up to 35 and since Pelfrey was dealing with a blister. Pelfrey will get one more exhibition start, then an extra day of rest before the April 1 opener opposite Josh Johnson in Miami.
Pelfrey’s line: 3.1 IP, 7 H, 7 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 2 K.
“It snowballed quick. I know that,” Pelfrey said. “I thought early I was sharp. I thought I stayed away mostly. And then the fourth inning came around and I pitched inside and my ball wasn’t sinking. I continued to throw it inside and they continued to hit it. I thought in that time I made some bad pitches. The ball wasn’t moving. It was kind of flat when I was going in on some righties and they hit the ball hard.”
• Over a two-game span, Jason Bay walked four straight plate appearances, capped by Monday’s second-inning base on balls against Kenshin Kawakami. Bay then got going on a 2-for-3, three-RBI game with consecutive hits.
Bay said he recently has abandoned the new stance that he had worked on with hitting coach Dave Hudgens since the beginning of spring training, and moved closer to what he did in previous years. He suggested the walks were partly better selectivity, partly pitchers’ wildness.
“All four of them were full counts, so it wasn’t the guy-comes-in-and-throws-four-off-the-screen variety,” he said. “It’s just a byproduct of being more comfortable. I kind of scrapped ‘Operation New Stance’ and came back to a little hybrid of both. The first few weeks, working with my bat flatter, it was really awkward. It was one of those things where you keep doing it. You go in the cage and see the merits of it and you see why it works. And you get in a practical setting and every day it’s like:
“‘It’s not comfortable. It’s not comfortable.’
“‘Keep doing it. It will become comfortable.’
“And finally a few days ago I kind of put my hands back to where they were and kept my feet a little wider, which was new, and it instantly felt comfortable. You do that for so long, it’s easier to be comfortable. That was three games ago. And now I’m seeing the ball rather than feeling uncomfortable and fighting myself.”
• Jose Reyes fouled a ball off his right shin the sixth inning, and limped around the batter’s box area in discomfort before continuing the at-bat. Wright joked afterward that Reyes was trying to get out of a long bus trip to Lakeland on Tuesday with a theater production. Reyes later appeared fine. He even participated in the running program Mets players do after they finish playing.
“I’m anxious to see if he’s OK for tomorrow,” Collins said.
Reyes’ speed wreaked havoc in the third inning. After reaching on a line single to right field that scored Josh Thole, Reyes appeared poised to be out at second base on Angel Pagan’s grounder. But shortstop Alex Gonzalez had first baseman Freddie Freeman’s throw glance off his glove. And when the baseball got behind Gonzalez, Reyes narrowly scooted safely into third. Pagan, no slouch speed-wise himself, ended up racing to second base. They scored on Bay’s bases-loaded, two-run double.
• D.J. Carrasco sure looks headed for the long-relief/spot-starter role with the Mets. He took over for Pelfrey in the fourth and went 2 2/3 innings. In Carrasco’s five Grapefruit League appearances, he has logged a combined 11 2/3 innings as the Mets look to keep him stretched out for extended workloads.
Still, Collins said he doesn’t want to get Carrasco pigeonholed into mop-up duty during the regular season. The manager told Carrasco as much Monday, suggesting if there was a favorable matchup late in a game, Carrasco still needs to be ready.
"I don't like to ever tag one guy as 'the long guy,' because he's the guy that everybody all of a sudden believes is supposed to pitch in the games you're getting beat in to give you some innings," Collins said. "... I hate to put too many labels on guys, or etched-in-stone roles, because I've been down in that bullpen [as a coach with the Dodgers]. I've seen some relief pitchers that they said, 'Well, I'm the long guy, and oh gosh, so-and-so went seven [innings] tonight, I'm not pitching.' And then they take their shoes off. They put their running shoes on. And all of a sudden the phone rings and they have to get up and their mind is shot because they don't think they're getting in. I don't want that.
"I told D.J. today, 'Look, if I've got all these numbers that dictate to me you can get so-and-so out, that he does not hit you, why shouldn't you pitch to him in the seventh inning?'"
Carrasco, by the way, wore old-school, Jamie Moyer-style stirrups in Monday’s game. He said he started doing that in recent seasons as a tip of the cap to old-timers. “Hopefully they’re saying that ugly-looking pitcher got me out,” Carrasco quipped about the attire.
• Right-hander Blaine Boyer has impressed Mets folks, to the point where insiders advise not to rule him out of a bullpen spot.
New York Mets
Still, because Boyer is on a minor league contract, he certainly is at a disadvantage. If the Mets are carrying Francisco Rodriguez, Bobby Parnell, Tim Byrdak, Taylor Buchholz and Carrasco, that leaves two slots for Jason Isringhausen, Pedro Beato, Manny Acosta, Pat Misch, Boyer and Mike O’Connor.
Isringhausen’s elbow inflammation may scare off Mets brass from placing him on the Opening Day roster. But even if that’s the case, giving Boyer a spot rather than sending him to Triple-A Buffalo to open the season means you risk losing two of three relievers among Beato, Acosta and Misch. Beato is a Rule 5 pick, while Acosta and Misch are out of options.
Boyer tossed two scoreless innings Monday, allowing no hits and one walk while striking out three, to shave his Grapefruit League ERA to 1.13.
“It’s gone good so far,” Boyer said. “I’m slowly getting to where I feel like I need to feel. It’s still a work in progress. Dan [Warthen] has shown me a slider that’s really, really, really helped my cause and has given me a lot of confidence out there. I think it’s going to be a huge difference-maker for me.”
Said Collins: “94 mph sinkers. Good breaking ball. Goes after hitters. He’s not afraid to pitch inside. Pretty good stuff.”
Boyer, 29, has appeared in 228 games in relief with the Braves, Cardinals and Diamondbacks during his career. He went 3-2 with a 4.26 ERA in 54 relief appearances for Arizona last season.
Boyer said Atlanta next-door neighbor Brian Moehler recommended signing with the Mets because Moehler had a favorable opinion of Warthen as a pitching coach from their time together with the Tigers.
• After Carlos Beltran took limited batting practice from both sides of the plate Monday, Collins said Beltran will have the option of participating in a minor league game Tuesday, and would be replaced by a pinch-runner when he reached base.
As for how Beltran looked Monday, Collins said: “I thought his bat speed was good. He was just a little late on some balls, but I was glad he got out there.”
Collins indicated the Mets have pretty much resolved to hold Beltran out of Grapefruit League games. That way, if Beltran landed on the DL, he may only have to miss the opening three-game series in Miami.
A 15-day DL stint can be backdated 10 days into spring training. And because March 31 is technically the MLB season opener even though the Mets open the following day, and because the Mets have an off-day on April 4, Beltran would be eligible to return from the DL for the second series in Philadelphia. That is, as long as he doesn’t play in the Grapefruit League.
“We are conscious of it,” Collins said.
• Collins said he continues to envision Parnell as the primary set-up man to K-Rod, even if others will handle that role too. Parnell tossed a scoreless ninth with two strikeouts Monday and picked up the win thanks to the four-run rally the next half-inning. In recent subpar performances, Collins suggested Parnell was working on his two-seam fastball at the expense of success, whereas this time Parnell fired his bread-and-butter four-seam fastball.
"As we make up this club, I don't ever forget what they did a year ago," Collins said, "because that's why they're here. You can get burned very, very badly making up your club on what you see in March. You can get burned really badly. These guys who have done it under fire, that means a lot."
• The Mets play the Tigers in Lakeland on Tuesday. Jon Niese starts for the Mets, followed by Buchholz, O'Connor, Byrdak and Beato. Brad Penny starts for Detroit.