Ishii To Control Tower: Walk No Man

The new and improved sharp Kaz Ishii threw 25 pitches yesterday against Met minor league batters and 17 of them were strikes with only 8 balls. Hey, he didn't walk anyone!! In fact, he pitched two scoreless innings, gave up only a hit and struck out three. Does this mean Ishii is good or our minor league hitters are that bad?

"Regardless of who was batting, I think I had very good control over my pitches," Ishii said. "I felt comfortable."

Pitching coach Peterson was even more excited, I mean REALLY excited:

"I was very excited," Peterson said. "Very, very excited. We did the same thing with him that we do with everyone. We want him to focus on making pitches and hit the glove. Velocity can win stuffed animals at the circus, hitting the glove gets people out. And that's what he did today."

Tom Glavine faced Ishii in the minor league game and allowed three hits over eight innings, walking none and fanning five. He gave up one run, earned, in his 100-pitch effort. Braden Looper and Felix Heredia also pitched scoreless innings in relief.


Looks like we can all exhale again.

With Spike Lee looking on, Pedro Martinez eased our nervous hearts with a 51 pitch, incident-free bullpen session with catcher Dave Racaniello under the watchful eye of pitching coach Rick Peterson.

Afterward, Martinez admitted that his back was still a little stiff but that it was "not so bad." He threw all his pitches and was able to complete the full session.

"I was able to work pretty much everything I wanted to work on," Pedro mused. "And I was fine. I was fine last time until I woke up the next day. This time, I was pretty much aware of it, but I was able to keep it in perspective, so everything is fine.

"I'll be fine tomorrow. I think I'm going to feel fine tomorrow because I feel pretty good right now. I'm thinking tomorrow [I'll feel] fine, [and I'll pitch in] Tuesday game."

Fine, fine, fine. Magical words.


Oh if only our opponents could be the Nats every day.

Yesterday, the Mets pasted the Nats behind a mammoth homerun by Piazza and bases loaded triple by Jose Reyes.

Mets pitchers combined to retire 14 consecutive batters until Jose Guillen led off the seventh with a homer, his third this spring. Manny Aybar and Bartolome Fortunato each threw two perfect innings for the Mets. Aybar struck out three, and Fortunato got six groundouts.

We optioned RHP Jae Seo and INF Jeff Keppinger to Triple-A Norfolk, and reassigned pitchers Scott Strickland, Scott Stewart and Orber Moreno to minor league camp.

So the bullpen race is going to the wire.

While Jose Santiago (1.80 ERA in five innings over four games, 4 Ks and 1 walk), Aybar (has a 1.86 ERA in 9 2/3 innings over seven games with nine strikeouts and only one walk) and Fortunato (whom the Mets acquired as part of the Scott Kazmir deal last summer, has a 1.29 ERA in seven innings over five appearances) were giving stellar performances, Mike Matthews wilted, allowing two runs on two hits in 1 1/3 innings before being lifted in favor of Heath Bell, who allowed a run and struck out three in 1 2/3 innings.

With Looper, DeJean and the guaranteed contract of Heredia all but certain, there are now 8 relievers vying for the final three or four spots in the bullpen.

In addition to Santiago, Aybar, Fortunato, Matthews and Bell, there are also Roberto Hernandez (2.25 ERA in seven games), Dae-Sung Koo (3.72 ERA in seven games) and Matt Ginter (0.00 ERA in 11 innings) duking it out for the final spots.

Ginter is probably a must, considering his ability to start or pitch long relief on a rotation that might be dodgy to begin with.

What that means is that the bullpen would have a righty closer, Ginter as a righty long reliever, set up man DeJean is a righty, Heredia a lefty and 3 or four places to mix it in. Aybar, Santiago, Fortunato, Roberto Hernandez and Bell are righties, Matthews is a lefty and Koo is a lefty.

For the sake of balance, if there are only three spots left, I'd have to take Matthews as the top lefty, even if he isn't top, and Aybar and Bell to fill out the pen.

If there are four spots left, add Fortunato or a second lefty in Koo.

Who knows, there's still a week for each of them to prove themselves.


Although by some wild and misguided error of omission yours truly wasn't invited to participate in Mets Geek or their 2005 Offseason Roundtable, I couldn't let a silly thing like no invitation stop me from crashing the elitist's party so here are my own answers to the inedible questions posed:

1. What was your initial reaction to the hiring of Omar Minaya as GM? What did you think the short-term and long-term impact of that hiring would be?

As far back as June 12, 2003, I was busy pimping for the hiring of Omar Minaya as GM.

..."With a full menu of imminently tradeable roster members waiting to be dumped like chum upon shark-invested waters, the Mets will finally fire GM Steve Phillips this afternoon and replace him with interim GM Jim Duquette for the time being while, one hopes Omar Minaya is coaxed away from the Expos."

With this kind of prescient ability, it can only be the work of the devil that prevented me from a place on this roundtable.

At the time, even in wanting him, no one had any clue as to the sort of immediate and telling impact Omar would have on the Mets. No one at the time had a clue the Wilpons would release their kung fu grip of cluelessness and allow someone else make the baseball decisions for them and that Omar could and would storm the ramparts of the latino superstar world with a cunning and guile no Met GM has ever possessed. I thought he was capable of making good trades and given the resources, would eventually right the leaky Mets ship for the long term but never expected this sort of siss boom bah so quickly.

2. Who was your choice for manager of the Mets? What was your reaction to the hiring of Willie Randolph?

I was quite convinced that a hiring like Rudy Jaramillo was precisely the wrong direction since the Mets weren't looking necessarily to rebuild from scratch and weren't full of young, impressionable players. The Mets sagging veterans needed someone who would command respect immediately, like the terminally unavailable Lou Piniella. Secretly, I wanted Bobby V back where he belonged but imagined that despite the hopeful rumours, he was a long shot. The rumours about Jim Leyland were interesting but the Mets didn't seem to be able to meet his criteria. I wasn't disappointed when Willie Randolph was hired seeing as how he was local and seeing as how he'd spent enough years with the Yankees to be respected as a winner. But since he'd never managed before, there was (and still is so far) no way to gauge what kind of manager he will be if/when the Mets are in a pennant race and the pressure mounts. My actual reaction at the time was:

"This isn't one of those smack-to-the-heads, oh-christ-what-are-they-doing sort of moments like when they hired Art Howe to lead them into oblivion and Fast Freddy Wilpon was positively gushing like a schoolgirl at how impressed he was with Howe's commanding presence...Hiring Willie could prove to be one of those sly, backhanded sort of brilliant decisions that will make Omar look like a genius."

3. What was the worst Met-related rumor you heard this offseason?

The persistent rumour that the Mets were considering hiring Rudy Jaramillo as their manager, regardless of how respected a flavour-of-the-month sort of managerial prospect he suddenly became. Big mouths like Mike Cameron and Cliff Floyd would have never listened to him and the disease of Met malaise would have grown proportionately. Jaramillo might go on to win a bunch of World Championships with some team but it never would have been the Mets and we would have had to wait another two years after we'd already surmised that, like we did with Howe.

4. Were you surprised to learn that Pedro Martinez signed with the Mets? What did his signing mean for the club? What did you think of his contract?

Pedro's signing was as shocking as the day the Mets traded for Mike Piazza only moreso because Piazza, having been traded to, as opposed to signing with, the Mets was still not as shocking. But it had the same impact on the franchise. It was instant credibility, regardless of all the jealous nattering by sportswriters everywhere who pissed and moaned about the length and size of his contract. If just ONE of the seasons he is under contract is vintage Pedro, it will have been worth it for the street cred alone.

5. Did you ever think Carlos Beltran would end up as a Met? Are you still surprised he’s a Met? Do you believe he’s worth his contract? Is he the best player the Mets have ever had?

No, I thought the rumours of Beltran signing with the Mets were pie-in-the-sky fantasies and that was after they'd already shocked and awed us with Pedro's signing. Pedro's signing was almost understandable, once you had the background facts and considering the length of the contract but Beltran, no way. I'm no longer suprised he's a Met, just glad. He's worth his contract, much in the same way Pedro is. Street cred. Not to mention the subtle team leadership and the quiet star quality he possesses. Someone needed to wrestle away the trepid leadership from the listless Mike Piazza and Beltran is just the man to do it. Whether or not he's the best player the Mets have ever had is a matter to discuss four or five years from now. If he builds on the foundation he's already established and doesn't suffer some fatal injury, yeah, he could be. The 7 year contract is not really and issue because he has zero chance of becoming another NY media prima donna with his head screwed on backwards. He won't become a crack addict and he won't embarass the Mets. But it's still far too early to tell if he will be the greatest.

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