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Monday, March 24, 2014
Vic Black may be losing grip on roster spot

By Adam Rubin

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Is Vic Black giving away what has been viewed as a secure bullpen spot?

Black, who impressed Mets officials with 15 late-season relief appearances after being acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates last year, is having an exceedingly rocky spring training.

After inheriting a runner from Daisuke Matsuzaka in the seventh inning Monday, Black failed to record an out. He hit Peter Bourjos with a pitch, surrendered a single to Shane Robinson, tossed a run-scoring wild pitch and allowed a Tony Cruz single before being pulled.

His spring numbers: 8 IP, 12 H, 9 BB, 1 HBP and a 6.75 ERA.

Black and Jose Valverde once were considered the likely set-up man for Bobby Parnell.

Now, it’s worth asking whether the Mets can afford to give Black a bullpen role at all, although last year's showing probably gets him on.

Still, Gonzalez Germen remains an extra arm in camp. And the Mets still have both Jenrry Mejia and Daisuke Matsuzaka for one rotation spot, although there seems to be an understanding with Mejia that he will not be used in relief.

“I’m a little concerned,” Terry Collins said about Black, who was acquired with minor-league infielder Dilson Herrera for Marlon Byrd and John Buck. “He’s been out there enough that you would expect, No. 1, that even though his velocity may not be where he wants it that the command would be a little bit better.”

Said Black: “Honestly, I think it’s just the time of year. I feel fine. Everything feels OK. Today I was just up [with pitch location], gave up some hits. The last few outings, though, everything is coming together. But I’ve honestly never been a spring guy. And I’m not coming up with excuses for what I’m doing. I mean, I left the ball up today and gave up runs. I tried to eliminate the free bases, but a hit by pitch doesn’t help.”

Black said he does not feel like he can rest on September’s accomplishments alone to earn a roster spot.

“There’s no room for me to lay back and use what I did last year,” Black said. “… I like to think back to my two previous springs, and they were bumpy and rocky and trying to figure it out. But once the season came, there’s just something about games in-season that get me to click. I’m not relying on that, because they still need to see that I’m going to go out and compete and perform.”

Asked if he could exclude Black’s spring-training performance because of last year’s success, Collins succinctly and bluntly said: “Not necessarily.”