Herb G - Opening Day Opens Some Eyes

Heather Ainswood
Is it news when Zack Wheeler outduels Stephen Strasburg? When it's a Spring Training game, probably not. Actually, they didn't even pitch against one another, technically, since Wheeler entered the game in the top of the third, after Strasburg had finished his 2 inning stint. Still, there was our Zack Wheeler, pitching a strong 2 innings, giving up 1 hit and walking one.

Wheeler started out a bit shaky, perhaps showing some nerves in his debut. He walked his first batter, and then threw one all the way to the backstop. Sensing he might be a bit nervous, John Buck went out to the mound and settled Wheeler down, whereupon he got the always dangerous Bryce Harper to ground out weakly to short, advancing Lombardozzi to third. Then with a runner on third, he struck out the next two batters on swinging strikes. In the bull pen, warming up, Wheeler was focused on keeping the ball down in the zone, and that paid off for him. The four outs he recorded that were not strikeouts, were all on ground balls.

Shaun Marcum, who started for the Mets, pitched a good first inning, but faltered in the second, giving up 3 runs on an RBI double and a 2 run homer. Marcum threw fastballs and changeups exclusively, indicating that he usually doesn't throw any breaking balls until his 3rd or 4th start of the spring. After the game it was reported that Marcum does not yet have a good feel for his changeup, so it should not be too surprising that he got knocked around a little bit. Marcum indicated his intent to work on improving his feel for the change up over the next few days, in the bull pen.

The Mets other pitchers all looked sharp, especially Cory Mazzoni, who struck out 3 while giving up only 1 hit and no walks in his 2 innings of work. Finishing out the 9th, Bobby Parnell looked all the closer. He might have emerged completely unscathed. The one hit he gave up might not have been a hit at all, save for the fact that Parnell deflected the ball and slowed it down. Additionally, Brandon Hicks booted a sharply hit ground ball that might have gone for a double play.

Offensively, one of the game's high spots was shortstop, Ruben Tejada' home run over the left-center field fence. After Kirk Nieuwenhuis led off the game with a sharply hit single on a 3-2 pitch, Strassburg promptly went to 3-2 on Tejada, whereupon Ruben connected on a home run. To cap off the successful inning, Marlon Byrd got the first of his two hits, a well stroked double. If his play today was an indication of what his Spring will be, Byrd may very well win a spot on the bench as the 5th outfielder.

To me, one of the most significant developments of the game was the gritty, heads-up play of Collin Cowgill. After doubling in the eventual game winning run, Cowgill showed off some smart, aggressive base running by scoring from second on first baseman, Micah Owings, error.

At one point, between innings, I was able to talk briefly to Ricky Bones, the Mets' bull pen coach, about the depth the Mets have in relievers. When asked if the veteran relievers that Alderson signed might have a leg up on some of the youngsters competing with them for spots, Bones said no, that they will have to show what they can do in Spring Training games, just like the youngsters. He said it was just too early to tell who might emerge to win spots in the opening day bull pen. That certainly makes sense, so I will try to ask him again as we get deeper and deeper into the pre-season.


Mack Ade said...

Did ou get a chance to go back to the back field while the game was on or where they blocked off?

The Closer said...

"To cap off the successful inning, Marlon Byrd got the first of his two hits, a well stroked double. If his play today was an indication of what his Spring will be, Byrd may very well win a spot on the bench as the 5th outfielder."

I wouldn't surprised if Marlon Byrd was the starting RF vs the Padres, especially if Clayton Richard gets the ball for the Padres on opening day.

Herb G said...

Blocked off, but from what I could see, most of the back fields were empty. There appeared to be a horde of minor leaguers doing what looked like drills on one field.

Mack's Mets © 2012