By Mike Steffanos
Tonight's game in Philadelphia has already been called off and has been rescheduled for the end of June. Presumably, by then we no longer see ballplayers bundled up in cold weather gear. Thanks to Mother Nature's efforts over the past couple of days combined with the vagaries of MLB Schedulers, the Mets have played only 11 games over the first 16 days of the season. It's been hard to get into the rhythm of major league baseball for me as a fan -- I could only imagine how difficult it might be for the players.
According to pitching coach Rick Peterson there is a silver lining to all of the clouds overhead, as reported by Anthony Rieber in Newsday:
Peterson sees days off as opportunities. He sees a bullpen session as almost as important as game action when you're trying to refine a pitcher's mechanics or approach. And rainouts mean there's more time to work one-on-one, as Peterson has done this past week with Oliver Perez, who walked seven in 2 2/3 innings Wednesday.
Perez, who will have almost a full week of rest when he next pitches Wednesday against the Marlins, has thrown two bullpen sessions this past week instead of one, which Peterson said has been a good thing. "What it allows you to do - it gives you an opportunity to do some things on the mound with extra bullpens that you wouldn't typically be allowed to do," Peterson said. "So you can get some volume in some areas as far as refinement's concerned."
Of course, that was after last night's rain out. You wonder if tonight was maybe too much extra preparation and if Mike Pelfrey might lose out on a start. Still, I could see Peterson's point when it comes to the young guys like Perez, Maine and Pelfrey. Especially with Perez after a really poor outing, refinement is a good thing.
By the way, I was asked by more than one person if I wanted to modify my optimistic attitude towards Perez after the last start. My answer is no. I expected there to be a few bumps in the road, even some big ones. He was bad last time out, no doubt, but that's going to be part of the process. I know there are some who are very skeptical of the pitching, and will seize on outings like Perez and Maine's last ones as evidence of a disaster in the making. They'd probably accuse me of wishful thinking, but I honestly think Perez will be able to turn his career around.
He'll never be smooth like Tom Glavine, nor will he be able to spot his pitches as well. He'll most likely always be prone to making some mistake pitches and consequently giving up some homeruns. When he's under control, though, his stuff is good enough to get away with some mistakes, provided he limits the mistakes and stays away from being constantly behind in the count.
I was pleasantly surprised at the speed in which he instituted some of Peterson's teachings this spring, and he does look ready to turn a corner. With a guy like Perez, though, you can expect progress to be intertwined with some steps backward at times. It understandably makes for good stories for those covering the team to play up the steps back, but I like the kid's attitude -- he really is confident despite spending most of two seasons wandering in the wilderness. Confidence matters. He's also bought into the changes Peterson is trying to implement, and by all accounts is working diligently at them. I'm not predicting a Cy Young in 2007, but I truthfully expect Perez to surprise and disappoint those who are waiting for him to implode. Just a feeling.
Sandlot ball still alive and well
I received an email today from Paul about a sandlot baseball program for kids on the Island in Shoreham, NY. Paul tells me, "I like to think we're doing our part to save baseball from irrelevance to the kids out here." This is from their web site:
Sandlot Ball is a league for kids to come and just play baseball. No Standings. No Playoffs. No Protests. No Practices. Only The Game. Just enough adult supervision.
Sounds great. If you live out there and you want your kids to have happy memories of baseball when they grow up, this sounds like a great program. Even the parents shouldn't be able to screw this league up.