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Park Solid in His Spring Training Debut

Mike SteffanosWednesday, March 7, 2007
By Mike Steffanos

Chan Ho ParkChan Ho Park finally received his visa and was able to make his Mets debut today against the Red Sox. The game was televised on NESN, and I endured listening to Jerry Remy in order to get a look at him.

He got off to a rough start in the first. He wasn't getting the calls from the home plate umpire and seemed to let that get to him. It took him 30 pitches to get out of the first inning. He wasn't really wild, but just missed with a lot of his pitches. Then again, you hate to see a guy nibbling in his first spring training start. He was lucky to escape with only one run allowed.

He was much better in the second and third. He set the Sox down 1-2-3 in the second and allowed only a 2-out single in the third. He looked much more confident and in control on the mound, and used his breaking pitches effectively. For the most part his fastball was sitting 88-89 -- a far cry from his heyday with the Dodgers, but not too bad. You figure he probably picks up another couple of MPH on the fastball before the end of camp. He's certainly cemented his place as the frontrunner of all the veteran pitchers in camp.

Aaron Sele didn't help his cause today, allowing 4 runs on 5 hits in his 2 innings of work. In fairness to Sele, he needs to work off his curveball and just doesn't have it yet. I mentioned earlier today that I'm trying to avoid snap judgements, but it's hard to imagine Sele winning a rotation job. I think his destiny is in New Orleans this April.

Steve Schmoll pitched a scoreless inning to keep his dark horse candidacy for the bullpen alive. Pedro Feliciano looked really sharp in his inning of work, striking out a pair of batters.

Then the Ambiorix Burgos Project came into the game in the eighth. For one inning he was terrific, keeping the ball down and throwing the great slider. Then in the ninth he got squeezed a little, started to leave the ball up in the zone, and wound up giving up a walkoff grand salami. I resist the urge to make the comparisons to Armando Benitez, because I think we as Mets fans fall into that trap too often. I myself am guilty of this, having made the comparison when news of the Mets pursuit of Jorge Julio first surfaced last winter. If today's game clearly illustrated one thing, however, it is that Burgos is terrific when he keeps the ball down and extremely hittable when he doesn't.

All in all, I liked what I saw from Park today. He doesn't have the electric heater any more, but he still has a presence on the mound and has a good slider. When he throws strikes, he is a solid major league pitcher. He needs to stay aggressive.

About Mike: I was the original writer on this web site, actually its only writer for the first 15 months of existence. Although I am grateful for the excellent contributions of my fellow writers here, I have no plans of stepping back into strictly an editorial role. I started this thing in the first place because I love to write and I love the Mets, and blogging here keeps me somewhat sane. If you haven't had enough already, more bio info can be found here.

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Comments (9)

Park's first game? I'll take it. Burgos good for an inning, not so good for more? I'll take it. Sele not good? We'll see.

Will be very interested to see what happens with Shawn Green after his old-school + hi-tech session as illustrated on Mets.com.

And what about Mike Carp? Has anybody told this kid how much we're paying Delgado? Yikes, this is cool.

To me, Sele was just a roll-the-dice move anyway; I'm not writing him off from one short outing, but it's more important to see quality innings out of Park and the other bona fide 3/4/5 candidates.

Mike Carp is now the top sleeper in my fantasy baseball draft.

I know, I know, I'm on crack. I've heard that a lot lately.

This from the guy who wrote to Davey Johnson in 1987 to tell him a seven-man rotation would be a great thing. Let every starter get one start a week on the same day of the week. Then, the designated Friday starter, for instance, could be ready to come in for a few innings on a Monday or Tuesday, etcetera, etcetera. Well, all the Mets' off days were on Mondays and Thursdays, so why not throw Terry Leach and John Mitchell out there?

Oh, and by the way, Gooden starts every Saturday.

Oh, and by the way, I have Saturday season tickets.

OK, when I first thought about what I saw today, my first reaction was that he looked totally ineffective and very hittable whenever the ball did cross the plate. But that's the way I am whenever I initially react. Now that I think about it maybe he wasnt as bad I first thought, but I still didn't like what I saw. You could say that his fastball could pick up a couple of MPH, but if he's grooving a 91 MPH fastball on a 3-0 or 3-1 count, it's gonna get ugly.

Re: Burgos being another Armando Benitez.
Wouldn't that be a great thing? I know everyone has terrible memories of Benitez, and I still have scars from some of those meltdowns. But Mets fans too often forget his incredible 1999 (237 ERA+ in 78 innings) and 2000 seasons (41 saves, 167 ERA+ in 76 frames). One can easily make a case that the Mets don't make the playoffs in '99 without his amazing run
Heck, I'll be thrilled if Burgos turns into the Diamondbacks' version of Jorge Julio (3.83 ERA in 44 2/3 innings).

I'm sorry I wasn't able to see the game here in NY. Park and Pelfrey will battle it out for the 5th starter job. I personally would prefer to just let Pelfrey fly and see if we can capture some Verlanderesque lightning in a bottle, but I suppose the Mets would prefer to let Park start the season and let Pelfrey take over for a starter that isn't producing. Realistically, if Park can give us Trachsel like performances (and he is capable of better) then he can be a productive inning-eater and winner for this team.

I never expected Aaron Sele to be anything more than an upgrade to Geremi Gonzalez, just as Jorge Sosa is an upgrade to Jose Lima. If you view them from that perspective, they're actually quite capable performers. The team may ask them to come up and make some spot starts during the season, and at least we know this is a vast improvement from the desperation of last year. Throw Pelfrey, Humber, Vargas and Soler (if he doesn't win a roster spot right out of ST) into that mix, and you have 11 very respectable arms in the mix for the 162 game push. And that's the sort of depth Omar always harps on being necessary for a team to succeed.

With respect to Burgos, remember one thing. Mercurial as he may be, he has been a 1 inning closer for most of his young career. He may just not be well suited for that 2nd inning of work. And on a team that will ultimately have 7 pen arms with Wagner, Sanchez, Heilman, Mota, Schoeenneweis, Feliciano, Smith and Padilla as options, it's hard to imagine Burgos being asked very often to go more than an inning at a time.

For my nickel, thinking of Sele and Sosa as upgrades over Geremi Gonzales and Lima is not the way to happiness. The idea should be to find an alternative to the Lima's of the world, not replace the one you had last year.

To me the best thing of this Spring's pitching competition is the appearance that several young, unproven pitchers are getting a real chance. Most of the rest of the format here is pretty much by the book. Guys with very live arms but little success, they tend to get multiple opportunities; I would place Perez in that category, and Burgos too if he wasn't so young. It makes sense too, since if they somehow turn things around then you've really got something. What it doesn't account for are those few Rick Reed types, who have never seen much of a shot but who can pitch -- who can impress the batters but not the Juggs gun, in other words.

Oldsters like Sele and Park are always getting another shot as well; the coaches can point to past success, and if they show up in good condition it's not hard to follow the dream for a month or so. And as with those strong unmanaged arms of Perez and Burgos, working out a few vets can sometimes result in an Aaron Small 2005 season.

What I like is the blue chip Mets prospects on display, Pelfrey and Humber and maybe Smith too; and the fact that guys such as Soler and Vargas are seeing a little daylight. That tells me that the Mets are truely covering the bases.

Tell you, Mike, this increased Spring coverage arrived right on time for me. I've probably never been more interested in the outcome of a Spring Training.

I don't see Aaron Sele agreeing to go to New Orleans after spending 14 years in the big leagues unless the Mets give him some assurances that he'll be back up after a couple of starts or be given his release at that time. For some players, signing a minor league deal with an invitation to camp is the only way to get a shot at making the major league club; they don't really intend to play a season in the minor leagues hoping a spot will open up and they'll get the call without any guarantee.

The guy has a great fastball. It doesn't move as much when he gets it up, but if he keeps it at the knees it really moves, and you can't hit him.


geezer - Carp hasn't even played at AA yet, so Delgado is safe for now :^)
NostraDennis - I agree. Sele was always a real longshot. BTW, I'm sure if Johnson had listened to you the Mets would have won a few more titles and Davey would still be the manager.
Joe - I'm not saying he's going be blowing batters away, but a fb in the low 90s combined with effective offspeed stuff AND good location is still good enough to win.
Ryan - I agree. Benitez is like Scott Kazmir -- a name writers throw out to make Mets fans squirm. He wasn't great in the big games, but he did a better job here than he was given credit for.
Salman - Park does remind me somewhat of Trachsel, but more like Trax before he hurt his back and was still solid. Likely the Mets would like to stay away from using Pelfrey 200 innings, so a callup later on makes sense.
dd - I agree on the coverage. In normal springs with few if any jobs for grabs it's probably overkill, but this year is fascinating.
Barry - He signed a minor league contract, and he did spend the first few weeks of last season in the minors with the Dodgers. I think he will at least be willing to start the year in New Orleans.
Lastings - I agree. By the way, are you going to take Green's job this spring?

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