By Mike Steffanos
I honestly can't tell you why I get so cheered up on the day that pitchers and catchers report to camp. Intellectually, I realize that the start of the season is still a long way off, and that I will be bored with spring training games long before they start playing games in earnest. Still, the official opening of camp carries with it all of the hope and promise of a new season. Not to mention that the return of the summer game promises that warm weather will eventually return. The furnace on the house we currently rent decided to kick out last night, and the inside temperature plummeted to 38 degrees before the heat was restored. If I needed another reminder that I am ready for winter to be over that certainly did the job.
Another Power Arm For the Bullpen
The Mets have picked up reliever Marcos Carvajal on waivers from the Devil Rays in Omar Minaya's continuing quest to add as many power bullpen arms as he can. Caraval spent last season in Double-A, and isn't at all likely to break camp with the Mets, but is part of the pitching depth in the Mets system. I'll see what I can dig up on him, and add him to the previews -- as much to satisfy my own curiosity as anything.
I mentioned in Steve Schmoll's preview that I thought this would be the make or break year for him. With the news that he has been designated for assignment to make room for Carvajal, that ship might have already sailed.
If you think that Billy Wagner had a somewhat disappointing season last year, you're not alone. Wagner admits that he wasn't happy at all with his inaugural Mets campaign:
"My numbers say that I was good, but mentally, I know that I wasn't," Wagner said yesterday as he sat on a stool at his corner locker and spat a steady stream of tobacco juice into a nearby trash barrel. "There are a lot of things I felt like I needed to improve on. I feel like a year after getting to New York being able to really focus in on not trying to overdo some of the things I tried to do last year. Just let it come naturally."
Wagner recalled the diving, back-handed stop David Wright turned into a ninth-inning double play in a game against the Phillies and the catch Carlos Beltran made when he crashed into the wall to save a September game in Houston.
"I had a lot of opportunities last year," Wagner said. "My team played so well behind me I could have easily had a terrible year. If David Wright doesn't make a few plays, if the guys in the outfield don't make a few plays, my year is not nearly what the numbers say they are.
"What I'm looking forward (to) more is the old Billy where it's more consistently 1-2-3 outings instead of having two or three guys on base every time I step out there. To me, I have a lot to prove to myself to get back to where I was."
Wagner feels that the finger injury in spring training affected his whole season, and admits that he never felt right:
"Nothing felt good in (my) hand. I don't know if that came from the finger or just trying to do too much. I didn't feel like I had the life and the control I had in the past. ... I think a lot of that was due to trying to get back too quick.
You go out there and you try to impress -- make a perfect pitch -- and you're talent isn't there. Last year I was grinding from the day I stepped out there. Nothing was easy. This year, hopefully, I'll go out there and pitch a little bit more relaxed and get where I need to be.
As I've mentioned many times here, I'm inclined to give Wagner some slack for last season. It was his first year in New York, it seemed like it took some time for him and Willie to get comfortable with each other, and I think he did make a mistake coming back too quickly from the finger problems. I'd love to see "the old Billy" show up this season and bring a lot more of those easy 1-2-3 innings with him.