Sunday, March 4, 2012
Pelf, Niese toss blanks; Baxter goes deep
By Adam Rubin
Mike Pelfrey and Jon Niese tossed two scoreless innings apiece and Ramon Ramirez, Manny Acosta and Garrett Olson each had scoreless frames as the Mets played a four and a half inning intrasquad game in their final tune-up for Monday night’s Grapefruit League opener.
Mike Baxter delivered a two-run homer on a slider from left-hander Chuck James and Bobby Parnell recorded only two outs while allowing three hits, two walks and hitting a batter.
Parnell has an option remaining and can be sent to the minors without passing through waivers if he is ineffective in camp. The game was called after Parnell plunked Zach Lutz in the left elbow. Parnell was disconcerted after drilling Lutz and had to be consoled on the field by pitching coach Dan Warthen as well as Terry Collins, although Warthen said the game was stopped at that point only because Parnell had reached his pitch allotment.
Warthen said he was unconcerned about Parnell’s control on March 4 because flamethrowers take longer in camp to get their arsenal in order, the pitching coach suggested. As for Parnell being visibly upset after plunking Lutz, including pacing around the infield grass, Warthen said: “When you hit one of your teammates, you’re always bent out of shape.”
Lutz chatted with trainer Ray Ramirez and had the elbow wrapped after the game, but said he did not need X-rays. He twice was hit in the head with pitches last season and missed significant time with a pair of resulting concussions.
“Just my luck,” Lutz said about getting plunked Sunday.
Pelfrey allowed no hits and one walk while striking out two.
He worked exclusively from the stretch to try to quicken his time to the plate and reduce stolen bases against him this season. Pelfrey surrendered 29 steals last season, with only two would-be base-stealers caught. The 94 percent success rate against Pelfrey was fourth-worst in the majors last season among pitchers who logged at least 190 innings and had at least 10 steal attempts against them. Pelfrey was better than only Edwin Jackson (22 of 23 successful, 96%), Randy Wolf (18 of 19, 95%) and Ted Lilly (35 of 37, 95%).
Pelfrey was pleased on Sunday with his sinker, which he hopes to rediscover after allowing a career-high 21 homers in 193 2/3 innings last season. He allowed a homer in 2011 at a rate twice as frequently as the previous season.
“I was happy with the movement, the sink on it,” Pelfrey said. “That was the pitch that I went into the offseason and thought I had to get back, and it was good today.”
As for pitching without working from the windup, Pelfrey added: “I felt last year that one of the problems was that I gave up too many stolen bases. I’m just trying to get quicker from the stretch. I’m trying to get more comfortable there.”
• Collins said second-base prospect Reese Havens as well as Scott Hairston will get cortisone shots Monday.
The oft-injured Havens’ back, which has sidelined him throughout camp, has not progressed. Havens has been limited to only 213 games over four professional seasons since being taken in the same first round of the draft as Ike Davis in 2008.
Hairston re-injured the left oblique Saturday that prompted him to finish last season on the disabled list.
“Reese Havens, when he’s healthy, is an outstanding, fun-looking player,” Collins said. “He’s one of those guys you just know the ceiling -- if we can get him in the lineup, he’s going to play in the big leagues.”
• Collins figures Davis’ valley fever will be an issue at some point this season, albeit modestly, so the manager plans to strategically rest Davis during the season. The manager would rather have Davis play 150 games and be available for 12 games to pinch-hit than have Davis overtax himself and have the Mets lose him for an extended period.
“He’s feeling fine. He feels strong,” Collins said. “But I just know as the season wears on -- there’s going to be when that fatigue starts to set in -- we have to get him off his feet and let him take a break.”
• When might David Wright return from his left rib-cage issue?
Wednesday is a road game in Jupiter, so Thursday may be the best bet under the best-case scenario.
“We’ve got a long way to go. I’m in no rush,” Collins said. “I cannot possibly run him out there and get him hurt tomorrow.”
Do all the early injuries invite a here-we-go-again mentality?
“I know one thing: We’re very aware on our club right now we’ve got to keep our starters in the lineup,” Collins said. “We’re concerned about it. No doubt we’ve got to be aware what’s going on. That’s why we didn’t force the issue here.”