Ishii Come Ishii Go

At least we don't see Omar sitting on his hands now that the fun of spending the Wilpons offseason money is over.

With Steve Trachsel spent for the season following back surgery and Zambrano controlling the strike zone like a drunk controls the steering wheel of a misaligned auto on a crooked highway, it appears the Mets have quickly recongised the burning need for help and will trade for Dodgers Japanese lefthander Kaz Ishii to give the Mets the most players on their roster nicknamed Kaz in MLB.

For the price of one magical Mr Ishii, the Mets will trade backup catcher Jason Phillips to the Dodgers. To show his seriousness, Phillips took his Playstation home from his locker after being informed by media members of the imminent trade. Phillips is hitting a team-leading .550 in 20 at bats for the Mets this spring but the Mets appear content with Ramon Castro as Piazza's backup.

This takes alot of steel cajones, to dump the capable and popular backup to an oft-injured backstop like Piazza for a guy like Ramon Castro who is hitting a mere .182 this spring.

And if you think Castro's sole problem is an inability to assualt baseballs as well as he allegedly assaults women, think again. Last season he had more strikouts (30) than hits (13). Have I mentioned before that Castro, while with the hated Marlins, had been charged with rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, indecent assault, sexual assault and unlawful restraint before pleading no contest to a misdemeanor indecent assault charge last November and is currently serving a year on probation?

Just the man you want for all your backup backstop needs.

One bright spot to Mr Castro's otherwise unremarkable resume is that last season, despite all the controversy, he threw out 36% of baserunners trying to steal. The current deficit backstop, Piazza, threw out 20%, which is like rolling the ball towards second base and hoping the basestealer breaks an ankle on the way.

And hey, if you don't like Castro, there's always Charles Johnson to pick up like kerbside rubbish once the Colorado Rockies trade or release him by the end of Spring Training.

Johnson, despite four gold gloves and a World Series ring, isn't even wanted by the new and unimproved Gen R Rockies, because he's over the team's new 25 year old maximum age limit and oh, I dunno, because he's scheduled to make $9 million this season while he's hit .133 this spring and hit .236 last season?

Well, all hand-wringing and worrying about the Mets' backstop aside, the deal will not be finalised until MLB and The Commish, whose collective head is spinning in the toilet bowl of a steroids Congressional Committee hearing, approves the $2.2 million the Dodgers will have to pay the Mets to free themselves of Ishii and take Phillips.

Ishii, another pitcher with notorious control problems, has walked 305 batters in 473 innings since joining the Dodgers in 2002. The Mets believe that perhaps unlike Zambrano, pitching coach Rick Peterson can improve Ishii's control. Let's hope so. ESPN's scouting report on Ishii notes:

Ishii's 88-MPH fastball gets on hitters quicker than they expect because it comes out from behind his right knee. Ishii also will cut the fastball to jam lefthanders, and he has a fine changeup to confound righties. A big sweeping curveball completes the repertoire. Ishii's nemesis is his control; he loses his release point and cannot find the strike zone. In fact, Ishii often will pitch exclusively from the stretch in order to get his mechanics back in order.

According to MLB dot com, since 1961, nearly 50 pitchers have walked more than 90 batters and struck out fewer than 100 in the same season as our man Ishii did. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the five to have done so most recently are Jimmy Haynes (Brewers, 2000 -- 100 walks, 88 Ks), Dan Reicher (Royals, 2000 -- 91 walks, 94 Ks), Mike Hampton (Rockies, 2002 -- 91 walks, 74 Ks), Damian Moss (Giants-Orioles, 2003 -- 92 walks, 79 Ks) and Ishii.

The last time a pitcher who had a ratio comparable to Ishii's won at least 13 games -- Ishii won 13 last year -- was 1992, when Frank Tanana had a 13-11 record, 90 walks and 90 strikeouts for the Tigers.

But although we, like others are quick to point out the obvious -- that we need another pitcher with control problems like we need an inflammatory bowel disease, it should be noted that so far this spring anyway, Ishii had seen action in three games, starting once, and has been a good boy in all of them, giving up a measely two hits and zero earned runs in 7 innings of work whilst striking out 10 batters and surrendering ONLY four walks.

Control problems? This guy sounds like an ace.

Of course, sing along with me kids, it's early, but if this is the type of control problems Ishii is going to have this season, bring him on.


As though hearing the footsteps of Kazuhisa closing in on them, Coach Peterson appears to be earning his money the hard way, teaching Heilman how to pitch again.

Peterson wanted Heilman to change from a straight overhand delivery to a three-quarters angle, achieved by leaning slightly to the right as the ball is released. The revised approach keeps his upper body parallel to his arm angle.

It was reminiscent of the way Heilman used to pitch in high school and at Notre Dame, where he went 15-0 in his senior year. And somehow, it's taken all this time to figure out how to return to form.

In addition to this blinding paen to baseless optimism, add to the lineup that the Korean version of Ishii, the missing piece of the indeterminable puzzle, Jae Seo, pitched yesterday as though his job was on the line in the Mets 6-0 win over the Marlins. The suddenly-masterful Seo pitched four shutout innings, allowing only two hits and no runs whilst striking out 3 and walking one and earning his first victory of the spring.

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