New York Mets: Frank Catalanotto

Mets morning briefing 3.6.11

March, 6, 2011
Carlos Beltran is poised to DH on Sunday as the Boston Red Sox come to Port St. Lucie. He is scheduled for two or three at-bats. And if his knees feel up to it, Terry Collins hopes Beltran will be back at DH on Monday for a couple of more ABs. Collins estimates Beltran will make his Grapefruit League right-field debut in seven to 10 days.

On to Sunday's news stories:

• Post columnist Joel Sherman is convinced Jose Reyes will not be a Met in 2012. The only question is whether Reyes is out at the trading deadline or as a free agent next offseason. Writes Sherman:

Mets GM Sandy Alderson said it is a decision that has yet to be made. But what else can he say? My owners do not have the money to pay Reyes market value. Or I do not prioritize what Reyes does best. Alderson’s belief system is pretty clear. He thinks stolen bases are exciting, but not an efficient way to score runs. Yes, he obtained Rickey Henderson twice while serving as the A’s GM. But it was the .400-plus on-base percentages of Henderson that seduced Alderson, not the thievery.

Sandy Alderson, of course, values on-base percentage. And, as Sherman notes, Reyes' top year was .358 in 2008. Rickey Henderson's career on-base percentage was .401.

A couple of potential issues: Alderson may have more autonomy than previous Mets executives, but a white-flag trade at the July 31 deadline would be a further drag on attendance in the second half, unless the Mets got an exciting young player already having broken into the majors back. And given the seemingly dire financial issues, can the Mets afford to do something that further drains attendance, ratings and revenue, even if it is prudent baseball-wise?

Then again, the new collective bargaining agreement appears as though it may change draft-pick compensation, with teams only getting a created sandwich pick between the first and second rounds -- and no longer getting the signing team's first-round pick. That means the Mets could lose Reyes as a free agent and only get a draft pick in the 31-40 range as compensation.

• Daily News columnist Mike Lupica makes the case for Mets owners, writing: Bernie Madoff says the owners of the Mets had no idea what he was doing, and all over town people say who cares, the guy's a born liar? But if Madoff had said from prison that Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz knew it was a Ponzi scheme the whole time, it would have been treated like gospel.

Mike Piazza was in Port St. Lucie on Saturday as hitting coach for Team Italy, which lost 8-1 to a collection of Mets top prospects. Piazza acknowledged thinking about buying into a baseball team at some point, although he suggested nothing is imminent, despite intimating he had been approached about buying into the Mets. Read more in the Star-Ledger, Newsday, the Times, Record and Daily News.

• While the bulk of the attention was on Piazza, Frank Catalanotto -- who made last year's Opening Day roster with the Mets -- also slipped into the complex as a Team Italy coach. Catalanotto, who hails from Smithtown, L.I., should be doing some broadcasting this year. He recalls with Newsday's David Lennon how as a player on the disabled list in 2004 with the Toronto Blue Jays, he reluctantly did three innings in the radio booth in Oakland after his manager gave permission. One member of the broadcast team had gotten sick, and the other announcer otherwise would have been solo.

Andy McCullough of the Star-Ledger notes Jason Isringhausen faces a test of his durability when he is scheduled to pitch back-to-back days, on Monday and Tuesday. "Let's just do it," the three-time Tommy John surgery patient tells McCullough. "Let's do it and get it over with." Isringhausen proposed the increased workload, which was earlier than the Mets staff intended, and restated what he told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “If I don’t make the team, I’m going home. That’s all there is to it. I’m too old and I’ve been doing it too long to go to the minor leagues and do that kind of stuff.” Pitching coach Dan Warthen tells McCullough about Izzy, who has 293 career saves: "He’s probably a little short on velocity. But the curveball, cutter and changeup are all there.”

• McCullough also does a Q&A with right-hander Boof Bonser. Bonser talks about his recovery from shoulder surgery as well as changing his legal name in 2001 as a top San Francisco Giants prospect from John Paul Bonser to Boof Bonser. He said he does not know the origin of his name -- only that his mother starting using Boof at a young age and it stuck. As for the legal change, he tells McCullough: "I figured why not? Everybody knew me as Boof, anyway. So I figured it was the right thing to do. My mom gave it to me. I just stuck with it and ran with it. Now here it is."

Ryota Igarashi went on trips to Disney and to Jupiter with the Mets and was unused each time. In fact, he has been used only once in a Grapefruit League game. So it seems pretty clear that Igarashi will be opening the season at Triple-A Buffalo, despite being owed $1.75 million this season, in the second year of his Mets deal. (Igarashi had been removed from the 40-man roster and cleared waivers during the offseason because no other team wanted to take on responsibility for his salary.) Despite his invisibility in camp, Igarashi tells David Waldstein of The New York Times through interpreter Mike Peters: "As a competitor, obviously I would like to pitch. But the team is what is most important. If I get impatient and testy, that is not going to help me or the team. Whatever is best for the team, I am here to do.” Collins tells Waldstein: “It’s tough when you bring guys to games and they don’t get in. I know he’s not a typical second-year guy. He’s a veteran pitcher. But he’s going to get his shot.”

• Post columnist Kevin Kernan catches up with ex-Met Chris "The Animal" Carter at Tampa Bay Rays camp. Carter married Emily, a nurse he met while playing in the Cape Cod League, in late November. Of course, after signing, the Rays also added Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon, giving him an uphill battle to be in the majors. Carter was in Venezuela when he learned the Mets had nontendered him in December. He did not foresee the move coming, because he was not yet arbitration-eligible like the other players dumped that day -- John Maine and Sean Green. That means the Mets could have paid him a minimal amount at the major league level. Instead, they wanted the 40-man roster spot, and viewed him as one-dimensional, even though he hit .328 as a pinch hitter for the Mets last season. "I don’t know what happened. I found out through a player, who looked online,” Carter told Kernan. “Once I found out it wasn’t going to be the Mets, I said, ‘OK.’ I just started working hard. I didn’t expect it to happen. I loved playing for the Mets. I was surprised by it. It was completely unexpected. I didn’t hear any rumors, but I didn’t want to dwell on it too long. I had to move forward because I didn’t have any plans.”

Andy Martino of the Daily News recaps the Mets tenure of Beltran, which enters its seventh and seemingly final year.

• The Post's Dan Martin looks into the progress of Josh Thole behind the plate. Drafted out of high school as a catcher, Thole was primarily a first baseman in the minors his first two full professional seasons, until moving back to his original position in May 2008 at Class A St. Lucie. “When he first came up, I thought he was just OK behind the plate,” Mike Pelfrey tells Martin about Thole. “But when he came back last year, he wasn’t the same guy.”

Steve Popper in the Bergen Record says Oliver Perez's time should be up with the Mets. (It will be before April 1.) The problem with Perez being wild at 85 mph instead of 95 mph is that the batters have far more time to discern what pitch is coming, and whether it's a strike.

• In spite of missing more than two months of the season, Jason Bay feels fortunate he's not experiencing the severity of the concussion symptoms plaguing Minnesota's Justin Morneau. “It’s hard to imagine what Justin is going through right now. I’m sure he’s wondering why he’s still not ready,” Bay says to the Record's Bob Klapisch. “That’s the crazy thing about concussions; everyone is affected differently, everyone recovers on a different timetable. Obviously I’m glad to be here.”

BIRTHDAYS: No one who has appeared in a game for the Mets was born on March 6.

Mets calling up "The Animal" from Buffalo

May, 10, 2010
Frank Catalanotto acknowledged his 15-year major league career may have ended with a pinch-hit groundout to open the bottom of the ninth inning in the Mets’ 3-2 loss to the Washington Nationals on Monday night.

Catalanotto, 36, was designated for assignment after the game. The Mets will promote first baseman/outfielder Chris Carter from Triple-A Buffalo, looking for better left-handed production off the bench. Catalanotto hit .160 (4-for-25) with one RBI in 25 games (one start).

“I don’t necessarily know that it came as a surprise,” Catalanotto said. “I wasn’t getting a chance to play much. I knew eventually it may happen, especially if I wasn’t helping the team out and producing.”

Catalanotto, who grew up in Smithtown, Long Island, had wanted to finish his career in New York.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Catalanotto said. “Chances are this is the end of my career. I’m very happy to have had the opportunity to play for the Mets. I always wanted to play in New York. It’s a great organization, great group of guys. So I was happy to do that. You know, I’ll have to go home and think about it. I don’t know if there’s a team out there that wants to pick me up. I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.”

Manager Jerry Manuel acknowledged it has been difficult for bench players to produce because their starts have been extremely limited. Catalanotto isn’t the only bench player who had no been producing.

Switch-hitter Gary Matthews Jr. struck out as a pinch hitter Monday and is hitting .136 (6-for-44). Right-handed hitting Fernando Tatis is hitting .222 (8-for-36).

“For the most part, because we’re trying to get some guys going, there hasn’t been much playing time for the bench,” Manuel said. “It’s sometimes a little difficult to expect, even though you would want to see some better at-bats than what we’re getting. But that’s a tough role as we sit right now.”

Said Catalanotto: “I knew I was going to be the left-handed bat off the bench. I knew I wasn’t going to get many starts. I was very proud of myself that the last two weeks of spring training I worked really hard and made the team, because I started off really slow in spring training. No excuses. I knew I wasn’t going to get a lot of opportunities here to play, and I had to make the most of what I was given.”

Carter, 27, was acquired from the Boston Red Sox for Billy Wagner at the end of last season. He plays both first base and the corner outfield, but is accomplished at neither and is considered primarily a hitter. With Triple-A Buffalo, he was hitting .336 with six homers and 22 RBIs in 113 at-bats. He has an active 11-game hitting streak with the Bisons. Manuel dubbed him “The Animal” because of his intensity and work ethic.

“He’s a competitor,” third baseman David Wright said. “He’s a workaholic. He’s a guy who is usually the first one here, last one to leave – really outworks pretty much everybody in the game. Hopefully it’s a shot in the arm for us. You know he’s going to go out there and give you everything he has every day.”

Carter merited making the Mets out of spring training, but had a minor league option remaining and was demoted, allowing Mike Jacobs and Catalanotto to make the club.

“I remember it was tough that last night in Tampa when they told him he wasn’t going to be on the team. He was crushed,” right fielder Jeff Francoeur said. “We kept telling him, ‘Keep your head up. You never know what can happen.’”

Here they come, New York

April, 3, 2010
The New York Mets completed their spring training with a whimper, losing to the Baltimore Orioles, 11-0, in Sarasota, Fla., on Saturday.

Still, manager Jerry Manuel suggested the 2010 Amazin’s are ready for Monday’s Opening Day matinee featuring Johan Santana against Marlins ace right-hander Josh Johnson. Whether that’s wishful thinking remains to be seen.

“Obviously you’d like to have your shortstop at least,” Manuel said, referring to Jose Reyes, who will spend a minimum of the season’s first four games on the disabled list. “But I think we’re ready. I think we’ve still got to pitch. We’re going to have to pitch. I think we’ll catch it. I think that we’ll hit -- hopefully timely -- and win some games.”

In the finale, left-hander Jon Niese tossed four scoreless innings before surrendering a grand slam to Miguel Tejada during a five-run fifth. Sean Green, the final reliever to make the team, was charged with four runs in the sixth inning, including a two-run homer by Nolan Reimold.

“Obviously it’s another outing where the numbers don’t show how good I felt out there,” Niese said. “But it’s one bad inning.”

Niese overcame a gruesome hamstring tendon tear suffered Aug. 5 at Citi Field against the St. Louis Cardinals to earn the rotation role. He was bedridden after surgery for three weeks, and didn’t throw off a mound until the team’s voluntary minicamp in mid-January. Manuel earlier this year didn’t expect Niese would be in the fifth-starter’s mix because team officials believed he would need to be treated gingerly during camp while recovering from the injury.

Now, after Manuel adjusted the rotation this week, Niese technically is the No. 3 starter. Well, at least he will pitch the season’s third game, Thursday against Florida Marlins right-hander Anibal Sanchez.

“I worked real hard in the offseason,” Niese said. “I didn’t have much of a life because I was rehabbing. All the hard work paid off.”

Niese finished the Grapefruit League schedule with a 6.52 ERA. The Mets collectively had a 5.19 ERA while going 14-16-1.

Among prominent players, David Wright hit .278 with five homers in 54 at-bats, while Jason Bay hit .340 with four homers in 53 at-bats. The spring’s top average belonged to first base prospect Ike Davis, who hit .480 with three homers in 25 at-bats before being dispatched to minor-league camp. Davis opens the 2010 season at Triple-A Buffalo.

HOMECOMING: Frank Catalanotto, who squeezed onto the roster along with Mike Jacobs once Daniel Murphy suffered a sprained right knee ligament and headed to the DL, is thrilled to be able to play at Citi Field in his career’s twilight. The 35-year-old Catalanotto grew up in Smithtown, Long Island. He still lives there. The utility man, who believes his best position is left field, lives five minutes from his parents’ home, in a house he built four years ago.

“It’s been a dream of mine to be able to play at home and have my family and friends there. It will be really special to be out there,” Catalanotto said. “It’s a different feeling. I’m really proud of myself with the start that I got off to in the spring. I think I was 1-for-my-first-13, and I wasn’t getting a lot of at-bats, and I didn’t really get my timing down. It didn’t look good for me. I just said to myself, ‘Hey, this is something that you really want. Take it seriously the last two or three weeks of spring.’ I was able to start seeing the ball better and get some hits. I felt like I won the job.”

As for Jacobs and Catalanotto both making the team, the Long Island native said: “It wasn’t something that really was going to be likely, but it happened.”



Daniel Murphy
.289 9 57 79
HRL. Duda 30
RBIL. Duda 92
RD. Murphy 79
OPSL. Duda .830
WB. Colon 15
ERAJ. Niese 3.40
SOZ. Wheeler 187