Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Updated: May 12, 3:44 PM ET
Carter makes immediate mark with Mets
By Andrew Marchand
NEW YORK -- The only player who compares to "The Animal" in intensity is Kirk Gibson. In Jerry Manuel's nearly four decades in baseball, there have not been many bred like The Animal. Only Gibson.
"It's almost like a football player's mentality," Manuel said.
This makes sense because The Animal has a football player's name (with an "h" added) that might as well stand for hustle. Chris Carter is the "The Animal," dubbed by his manager in spring training, because of his crazy work ethic.
In his first at-bat as a Met, the 27-year-old rookie sent an eighth-inning, pinch-hit RBI double down the right-field line to give the Mets the decisive run in a come-from-behind 8-6 win over the Nationals.
It started what could be a Joe McEwing-like love affair at Citi, because The Animal is the type of guy fans love.
Read what his teammates had to say about The Animal:
Jon Niese, who was taken off the hook as the Mets came back from four down in the eighth, said, "I have never seen a guy have more passion for the game."
Ike Davis, who went over the railing on the foul pop again to end the game, said, "He is probably the most positive person I've ever met."
As for The Animal, he doesn't say much. He played at Stanford and dreamed about being a major leaguer. But now he is a 27-year-old rookie, who plans on working harder than anyone to stay.
In spring training, he had more hits than nearly anyone and slept less. His .393 average was not good enough to make the team because he had a minor league option and Mike Jacobs didn't.
Still, he impressed Manuel at the plate and because he arrived before 7 a.m. every day. When Alex Cora beat him to the park once, The Animal, according to Manuel, was mad about it. What drives The Animal?
"I have a lot of things I need to work on, I really do," said The Animal, who came over in the Billy Wagner trade last year. "I want to get better. I need to get better to be the player I want to be and I dream to be."
The Animal is already in Mets history with Carlos Baerga and Rodney McCray, which is not exactly Piazza and Seaver, but as a 27-year-old rookie, The Animal won't complain.
Carter became the 799th Met in the team's history to have a plate appearance. He is just the third Met to have his first hit be a game winner in the eighth or later, according to Elias. Baerga, in 1996, and McCray, in his first and last Met at-bat, in 1992, were the only others.
Carter didn't do it alone. He had a lot of help, especially from ex-Yankees Brian Bruney and Tyler Clippard, who proved they still can't pitch in New York.
The Mets trailed the whole night until the eighth when Bruney and Clippard entered. Jason Bay -- who had three hits on the night -- led things off with a single. David Wright followed with his second double of the game. Suddenly, the Mets, who were down four to begin the inning, were setting up The Animal's big moment.
After an Ian Desmond throwing error, Jeff Francoeur stuck out. Rod Barajas did what he has done all season -- he came up huge. Big Hit Barajas nailed a two-run double. And you could just feel that the guy nicknamed The Animal would ultimately get his chance.
Following an Alex Cora walk, Carter's moment had arrived. Carter had prepared for it all game. From the third inning on, he had been stretching, running and talking to himself. He told himself to keep loose because he was probably going to get an opportunity to pinch hit.
Then, he did. On a changeup from Clippard, The Animal delivered the go-ahead double. It capped a comeback from what was a five-run deficit at one point. It finished off an amazing 24 hours for The Animal.
He was called up just 24 hours earlier and couldn't sleep Monday night. Now, he was on second with the game-winning hit.
"I don't have the words," The Animal said. "It was very special."
When the Animal was in the Diamondbacks organization, he worked with Gibson. So when he was told what Manuel had said, he sheepishly smiled.
"That's a huge compliment," The Animal said.
When told that the nickname, The Animal, was likely going to replace CC -- his old moniker -- Carter gave a little smile. He seems ready to embrace his new identity.
"Let's do it," The Animal said.
Andrew Marchand covers baseball for ESPNNewYork.com. Follow him on Twitter.