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Bringing the "A" Game, Heilman's Role

Mike SteffanosWednesday, May 10, 2006
By Mike Steffanos

The Mets lost a tough game in Philly last night. A stirring comeback went flat on a funky triple and the combination of a swinging bunt and a poor defensive play. I thought part of the reason the Mets lost last night was due to some plays they failed to make. For the most part they've been making the plays this year, and it's shown up in the win-loss record. Everyone is entitled to a bad day once in a while, but I'd sure like to see the Mets tighten things up tonight and go back to playing the really solid baseball they have been playing. Philadelphia is a good team experiencing a nice role right now, and to have an opportunity to beat them in their home park you have to bring your "A" game.

I thought going into the year the Phillies were a better team than Atlanta if they can get their pitching straightened out. I don't think Gordon is as good as he's been the first month, but the Phillies have better pitching than most people think, and a veteran club that's been through pennant race wars. It should be an interesting series, also an interesting race if both teams stay healthy.

My Mom, who's obviously been listening to some sports talk radio, asked me how I felt about what the Mets were doing to "poor Aaron Heilman." After making sure that there wasn't anything unwholesome going on I wasn't aware of (torture, white slavery, etc.) I breathed a sigh of relief. Putting aside for a moment the debate as to whether Heilman should be moved to the rotation at this point, I have to shake my head at the not uncommon sentiment among some fans that the Mets are being unfair to the young right-hander by not giving him a starting job.

While it's clear that Heilman wants to be a starter, and certainly pitched well enough in the spring to earn the job, it's valid for the team to say, "we need you more in the bullpen." Good teams do this all the time, especially to young pitchers like Heilman. In the spring when we heard Heilman would be returning to the 'pen I was against it, feeling that the needs of the rotation were greater than the needs of the bullpen. I'm still not convinced that Heilman won't end up as a starter before much longer this year. But the Mets' argument that their bullpen is the absolute strength of this team is valid, and in any case I've covered this point in depth previously.

If you want to argue the wisdom of keeping Heilman in the bullpen from a baseball standpoint, I'm right there with you as one who clearly sees valid arguments on both sides. If, however, you chose to argue the point that the Mets are somehow damaging Aaron's fragile psyche by ignoring his wishes, you completely lost me. Aaron Heilman, provided he stays healthy, will make a lot of money from baseball. I can almost guarantee that he will be given the chance to start games, if not this year than certainly soon. The only real way to end the debate on whether he can survive the third time through the batting order is by giving him the chance to do it. In the meantime, he's willing to acquiesce to the needs of the team, and that should be the end of the argument as anything other than a purely baseball one.

Daily News: Pelfrey Dominant in AA Start
Eric Barrow reports on Mike Pelfrey's latest start for the Mets' Binghamton farm team. After experiencing his worse start as a pro last time out, Pelfrey bounced back with a strong 7-inning outing. Pelfrey himself was fairly satisfied with his effort:

I'd give myself a B. I made a few mistakes, left a few pitches over the middle of the plate, and my breaking ball ... sometimes it was there, sometimes it wasn't. But I showed (the Mets) some stuff tonight. I located some good fastballs and breaking balls. You could see flashes of what I can do.

Barrow cites Binghamton pitching coach Mark Brewer on the Mets number 1 draft pick:

Brewer says Pelfrey needs to continue to work batters inside and throw more changeups, but that all of his pitches (fastball, curve, changeup) are major-league ready and his fluid delivery is nearly flawless.

Laying on the hyperbole, Brewer said Pelfrey "resembles a Don Drysdale or a righthanded Randy Johnson with better command. He has power and the demeanor of a three-to-four year veteran and the aptitude to match."

That's the point, I guess. There's a temptation to really rush him up to the big leagues, and he might even be good enough to handle it. If Jose Lima and/or Jeremi Gonzalez get shelled against the Brewers there will be more pressure to bring him up. Still, he's working on things down there out of the glare of the spotlight that will help him to be a better pitcher when he does make the majors. I remember Brian Bannister said something early in the year. I don't have the exact quote, but it was to the effect that the minors are about development, the majors are about production. Of course you can improve in the majors, but you don't have that low-pressure opportunity to work on things in games that you do in the minors. I hope to see Pelfrey this season, but only when better baseball minds than my own believe he's ready.

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Comments (9)

Yesterday exasperated the mets situation. Pedro had the off inning (or two), the Heilman had the 9th inning error. not an issue with me.

However the Pro's and Cons of Heilman are the bar room debate du-jour. There is an appalachian siized wrinkle though that I have not seen discussed yet.

First letme re-hash. Heilman (arm slot-and all) was nearly ran out of town LAST yr, before the epic one hitter in FLA and his meteoric 2nd half last year. Before that gammons and most media personnel said his 'stuff' projected as a middle reliever and he would not fare well against an order three times. in 03 & 04 that translated and he was routinely bombed in the 5th/6th innings. last yr he rebounded (new arm slot) burt again rarely sees the same hitter twice.

Conspiracy?: a. Heilman's value to the mets is peaking RIGHT now. At minimum he is part of a dominant pen. BUT this DOMINANT pen has Wagner, Julio, Sanchez, Feliciano, Bell, Oliver (long man) and Bradford. As heilman really needed in that pen......I dont think so. Bringing Bradford/Feliciano into the 7th/6th might work just as well.
b. So Why not start Heilman? answer...his confidence and maximum effectiveness.....AND TRADE VALUE!!!
c. Gasp and confound...but I think Heilman (possiblly with Diaz) may be the two guys Omar has in his trade package. The Mets cannot afford to let that stock drop....no VZ withstanding. several clubs...Tampa being a fore runner covet him. Others like Oakland may also. Eventually that inevitable trade for this years Kenny Rogers will take place and I belive Heilman could go.

I'd hate to see Livian,(i'd prefere Zach day) But that's my interpretation. In the mean time reflect on how Heilman-Graves-Hernandez-Loop-Bell-Ring-Koo were used last yr. This year, hopefully Bannister-Soler et al develop ala Noah Lowry-chris Capuano into a comptent ML ready starter.

Ed, with respect you and I will never agree on Heilman. You might be right and I might be wrong, or visa versa. To me the question on Heilman isn't whether last year was a fluke, it's starter or reliever. To say that Heilman isn't needed in the bullpen right now is something that I can't really debate you on, because our views on this one matter are so far apart, there could be no middle ground. We really will have to thow beer nuts at each other in person some day...

I am by nature a protagonist.

I merely was caught up in the 'what ifs', 'whys' and 'would they really do thats' ...

all that remains is to let the cards fall. But we agree....start him, let him relieve, or trade him are the options.

You keep me honest, that's for sure. I think Heilman, if he can mix in enough breaking pitches, could be an effective starter. He really came into his own last year after he went to the 'pen, so I tend to discard his ups and downs as a starter. Having said that, if you forced me to bet my own money on it, I think Heilman long term is a better reliever.

Are you guys smilin'? We're outnumbering the Phillie fans now...and Julio gets to close out another game...

Speaking of which there were a TON of Met fans in downtown Reading(if you can call that downtown) during the summer I spent there in 2005. Inner city Reading seemed like a town intent on not being Philly's little cousin. The blue and orange colors fit well with the town's architecture; and were always on display with the sizable minority population there.

I'll smile after any game they play this well.

Yuan, I surprised to hear that about Reading. Then again, I find it hard to believe there are so many tickets for Mets fans in Philly. I know Philly is a football town, but I wonder what it takes for them to fill that place with their own fans. That's a pretty good team.

It's not that they won't make Heilman a starter that frustrates me. It's that they won't even give him a few starts to help out until Bannister gets back. With the Cards and Yanks coming out, the bullpen is going to be useless unless we can get them the game to them with the lead (or at least a tie). I am scared to think what a Yanks/ Cards lineup is going to do to Lima & Gonzo. I think they are kind of putting the carriage before the horse here by holding the line on keeping Heilman in the pen for the sake of the pen. Just give the kids a few starts so we can weather the storm these next few weeks.

Chris, I don't blame them for not moving him. I still think they may be forced to this year, but you always hate to weaken your greatest strenght as a team. No one is ready to step up and help Sanchez with the setup role, and the Mets don't have any starters that are going to consistently pitch really deep into games.

I hear you on Lima and Gonzalez, though, yech...

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