Saturday, February 23, 2008
Koufax gives Wagner some tips at Mets' camp
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Billy Wagner was looking for a little help and Sandy Koufax was happy to oblige.
Legendary Dodgers pitcher Sandy Koufax, left, visits Saturday with Mets pitcher Pedro Martinez, right, and Mets bullpen coach Guy Conti, second left, at spring training in Port St. Lucie, Fla.
After getting a call from bullpen coach Guy Conti, Koufax visited New York Mets camp Saturday and spoke with the team's hard-throwing closer.
"I wanted just to talk to him," Wagner said. "I've known Sandy off and on for 12 years. He's probably about the only lefty I can go to and say, 'Hey, what am I doing?' and kind of have somebody I feel kind of connects with me."
Wagner, 36, went 2-2 with 34 saves and a 2.63 ERA last year. He's trying to maintain his status as an elite reliever.
"If somebody wants to get better and they think I can help them, then it's a pleasure," Koufax said. "I don't do it unless someone asks. If I help them, great. If I don't, I tell them, 'This is an experiment. If it doesn't work for you, forget it. It has to work. You have to be comfortable.' I don't have all the answers."
The Hall of Famer also chatted with fellow three-time Cy Young Award winner Pedro Martinez, who received a book in the minor leagues that included stories about Koufax and other famous pitchers.
"I was like blown away by those numbers of Koufax and [Don] Drysdale and [Bob] Gibson," Martinez said. "I was like, 'Woo, how can you get so far?' "
Koufax also is a big fan of Martinez, who is preparing for his 17th season in the majors.
"He's amazing," Koufax said. "He's got such good control and he changes speeds and he's fun to watch."
Martinez said the quiet Koufax is not a typical star. He often avoids attention, but his presence is known the moment he arrives anywhere.
"He's a little shy," Martinez said. "He doesn't like the spotlight very much. [But] he deals with it because he's very educated."
Koufax and Mets owner Fred Wilpon were high school teammates growing up in Brooklyn. Mets manager Willie Randolph said it's always great to have Koufax in camp.
"To me he's like royalty, man. He comes around, he's like the Pied Piper, guys just gravitate towards him," Randolph said.
Third baseman David Wright missed camp to attend funeral services for his grandmother. He's expected back in camp on Tuesday. The Mets play their exhibition opener that day against Wilpon's alma mater, Michigan.