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Saturday, April 21, 2012
TC on Pelf, Nieuwenhuis and Ike

By Matt Ehalt

To manager Terry Collins, it's night and day when comparing Saturday's starter Mike Pelfrey from 2011 to 2012.

"His stuff is completely different. The new delivery has helped, much better life on his fastball, using his curveball a little bit more," Collins said before Pelfrey faced the Giants. "Last week, his split was what it was two years ago. He put guys away, got swings and misses. I thought that's been the biggest thing thus far this year, is that his stuff has been better."

Coming off arguably his worst season in the majors after finishing 7-13 with a 4.74 ERA, Pelfrey has pitched well to start the season, with a 3.09 ERA and a pair of no-decisions.

Collins believes Pelfrey's use of his sinker as his out pitch has been key, as he's been able to rely on it. The manager sees an increase in confidence from the tall right-handed pitcher and also credited the catchers for their preparation with the pitchers.

"I think they’re starting to realize there’s a purpose to each pitch that they throw and (saying), ‘Hey look, we got to throw your breaking ball. We can’t just sit here and live with sinker, sinker, sinker,'" Collins said. "And I think the catchers have done a much better job of managing what the pitcher has to do to be successful and making him use those pitches."

KIRK UP TOP: Kirk Nieuwenhuis is atop the lineup to not boggle down the bottom with too many lefties. He went 1-for-3 Friday with a home run and his manager raved about his competitive streak.

"When I first met him, my first trip as the field coordinator here, I went to Binghamton and I watched those guys, there was a group, (Lucas) Duda was one, Nick Evans, Nieuwenhuis, during batting practice they were nice and loose and having a good time and then I walked out on the field right before game time and they were different people. I said 'Wow, these guys get ready to play.' When the game starts, it's all business. I really like that about Kirk."

When asked about what kind of hitter he sees Nieuwenheis developing into, Collins wasn't sure. He said Nieuwenheis doesn't fit the mold of a leadoff hitter with his size and strength, but if he continues to get on base, there's no reason he can't be at the top.

"And that's what we're hoping for right now, the way he's swinging the bat right now, we want him to get on base and get some guys up so when (Daniel) Murphy and David (Wright) and middle of the lineup comes up, we can do some damage," Collins said. "But he's also going to do what he did last night. He's got enough strength. He can hit the ball out."

IKE STILL SLUMPING: After batting 0-for-5 last night, Ike Davis is hitting. 140. Collins doesn't seem too concerned about the young first baseman.

"I know he's working, he's been out early, he's been hitting early on the road, he hit early yesterday, we're trying to get him going and as I told him, I move him and get him to relax, but I haven't got anybody else I can put in that spot right now," Collins said. "We've got to be patient with him and I think eventually and very soon he's going to start doing some damage."