By Mike Steffanos
Chan 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.