By Mike Steffanos
Sorry for the late post today, but Internet connection problems threw a monkey wrench into my morning. Just a few thoughts before I get back to the stuff that pays the bills. I was pleased to see Oliver Perez bounce back yesterday with a better outing. He avoided hitting any innocent bystanders this time around, and did a better job of keeping his pitches off the fat part of the plate. He did get away with a few mistakes again, though, and they were the sort of mistakes you might not get away with once they start playing real baseball games. Still, it was progress, and it was important.
It seems that the Mets are asking Perez to be really aggressive in the strike zone early in the count so far, and they're attacking first pitch on him as a result. With his control problems that's probably not a bad approach, although he needs to improve location as the spring goes on. His mechanics looked a little better yesterday, but they're a work in progress.
Although I am following the performances of all our potential starters very closely, I'm trying not to read too much into each individual performance. For instance, Phil Humber needs a little time to round all of his pitches into shape, and on top of that seemed nervous his first time out. You got to give him a couple of more starts before you really judge him. Kevin Mulvey is another example of a pitcher that needs some time to get all of his pitches working.
Alay Soler has looked pretty good, and has had decent results in his two outings. He obviously came into camp in shape and ready to pitch, and is ahead of some of the other pitchers at this point. Whether he is still ahead of them by the end of spring is a different matter. He's thrown a lot of breaking pitches so far, and I for one would like to see him establish his fastball more. When he got into trouble last year it had a lot to do with him nibbling too much and throwing too many off-speed pitches. There are days that he is not going to have his good slider, and he needs to show he can still pitch decently without it. It also concerns me a little that he has only one strikeout in 5 innings. Still, he deserves a ton of credit for working hard to insert himself into the mix this season.
Joe Smith has been interesting to watch so far this spring. He's a groundball machine, and really has a chance of grabbing a job if he keeps it up. With Duaner Sanchez looking less and less like he'll be ready for opening day, there is an extra job to be won. Ambiorix Burgos probably has a job that's his to lose right now, and he's looked good in his two outings. I also liked John Maine and Jason Vargas in their first outings. Jorge Sosa seems to have bounced back today with a strong two innings after giving up a couple of bombs last time out.
It's been an interesting spring so far, and I'm sure the intensity will pick up very quickly. Beyond the pitching derby, it would be nice to see the team start hitting a little.