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Baby Steps

Mike SteffanosWednesday, May 2, 2007
By Mike Steffanos

Marlins 5 - Mets 2
Mets 6 - Marlins 3

I was listening to last night's loss while working at the new house. I had the feeling all night -- at least until Heilman gave up that home run -- that the game was out there to be won. Once again, the Mets couldn't seem to get that big hit to break it open. It was frustrating, particularly since it ensured a series loss to a division foe, but there was a silver lining hiding out under the dark cloud that brought thunder and rain during the ninth inning.

After starting the first inning as if he was determined to pitch himself to New Orleans, Mike Pelfrey finally took a breath and became a pitcher again. Pelfrey loaded the bases in the first by hitting Uggla and walking Cabrera and Jacobs, and then gave up a bases clearing triple to Josh Willingham. Even with El Duque's shoulder problems, another terrible outing from Pelfrey might have earned him a ticket on the New Orleans shuttle. Instead of allowing the bad start to bury him, Pelfrey bounced back to dominate the Fish into the seventh inning. It wasn't a perfect outing, and in the end earned Pelfrey another "L", but it was something to build on.

The same could be said about David Wright. He garnered three hits, including his first homer. He doesn't look totally locked in at the plate, but he no longer looks totally lost. David's 3-hit game would have looked a lot better if the Mets had pulled the game out, but the Mets are better served over the long term with a productive David Wright.

Even Aaron Heilman, who has looked tentative this year in getting off to a bad start, looked like the good Aaron Heilman in the ninth after getting tattooed in the eighth. After the game, Heilman admitted that he got mad after giving up another back-breaking homer and "just threw" in the ninth.

I know some Mets fans are pretty down on Heilman, but there aren't that many options for them now. Pedro Feliciano can't seem to find the plate with regularity. Joe Smith is already pitching too much. Ambiorix Burgos is a work in progress. Scott Schoeneweis has allowed 15 baserunners in 10 innings of work so far, and has benefited from a couple of hard-hit balls being snagged by the defense. Guillermo Mota is still at least a month away, and we don't know what he will be yet. Like him or not, Heilman needs to find his game for this team to win.

Mike Pelfrey (0-3)
TOTAL (4 Games)20.015152591026.751.751-3

I was able to watch some of today's game, and had a feeling Oliver Perez would have a strong start in a game the Mets really needed. Poor Ollie failed to get the memo at the beginning of the year that he was just supposed to be a punch line. He thinks he is a pitcher, and damned if he doesn't look like one over his first five starts.

Everyone jumped on Perez after he melted down on that cold night against the Phillies. In the three games since, all he's done is pitch 19.1 innings and allowed 20 baserunners and 7 earned runs.

Perez looks great mechanically right now, though he has a tendency to lose it a little when he gets deep into the game. As he maintains the smooth delivery over time I think we'll see less of that. He might pitch a stinker now and then, but I think there are a lot of folks who will be eating some serious crow as the season goes on.

Wright went 2-5 today. Again, he doesn't look completely locked in at the plate, but he's starting to look more relaxed.

Joe Smith gave the Mets a nice inning-and-two-thirds today. 26 games into the season he has 15 appearances and 13 innings pitched. That would translate to 93 appearances over a full season. He's been great, but as already stated, someone like Feliciano needs to step up or Smith may need a recommendation on a good arthritis physician from El Duque. Seriously, I worry about him wearing down if used at this rate.

Oliver Perez (3-2)
TOTAL (5 Games)29.0131126361023.411.243-2

Box Score (5-2 loss)
Box Score (6-3 win)

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)

Its always great to hear how the house is coming along;
1. Ollie; I am hating the W-L-W-L trend, especially since he should be at least 4-1. His peripherals are excellent, his WHIP is great, his strikeouts outstanding. He is even getting clutch strikeouts. His walk/SO ratio are Saberhagen-esque. but for some DW protest gestures (I need a day off), I think Ollie has a shut-out and 7IP.

2. Maine: Pitcher of the month...nuff said. Ok not enuff; This is a pitcher who was CUT last Spring training, BOMBED in his first start, and (ala Pelfrey?) took time to turn the corner. But when he did look at the results.

3. Gotay! I like Gotay. How about that clutch hit today after Fla and Sanchez seemed to settling in. I have heard lots of positives, so I did some (more) research. It seems he needs to stop trying to be Roberto Alomar. The fact he played today over Easley or Newhan is huge.

I hear good things about his glove...as such he is not Keppinger, and he has had good success (and Pop) with the bat (not ahern).

We all knew Ollie had the ability to blow away teams from time to time. But watching him recover from rough 1st innings in his last 2 starts, and going 6-7 innings while keeping his team in each game was far more impressive to me. It's a sign of great maturation in a young talented pitcher.

Mighty Joe Smith has just been fantastic. His stuff is filthy, and he is fearless. What makes him different from Chad Bradford is not his arm angle, but his changeup that gets lefties out (to add to his dominance of righties). I've followed him closely since he was drafted, and even I envisioned him as more of a righty specialist, but he looks like a true 8th inning setup man / closer. As you wrote, I only hope his arm doesn't fall off with overuse. It's time to trust Burgos, Feliciano and Schoeneweis a little more to shoulder that load.

Let's hope the Arizona air has it's usual effects on our bats.

Mota could be big when he gets back because Willie clearly doesn't trust Heilman or Burgos very much. I'm not sure whats up with Heilman, he either needs more work or less work its hard to tell. Over the last 2 seasons he pitched better with more work and responsibility but with his spring elbow troubles who knows. Joe Smith is awesome but yeah he is getting too much work. Oliver Perez looks great, all the doubters certainly had reason to doubt after '05, '06, but has a pitcher ever put up a season like Perez put up in '04 and then just faded into oblivion for no reason?

Since I have been one of those fans that Oliver Perez needed to show somethin', I'd better mention that I am very impressed at how he has managed to put that awful start in Philadelphia behind him and revert to his game plan. He seems to really know what he has to do out there -- I mean that in a muscle-memory connotation. All his success does is make the Mets a very dangerous team, for a series or a season.

I am, and have been, a supporter of Aaron Heilman. While I do expect him to find his groove, I remember that something of a lingering nature was bothering him back in Spring; the team was concerned about sending him out on consecutive days. Sometimes a small physical irritation might affect a repeated motion even when it doesn't actually weaken the player; wonder if this is such a case?

Then too Heilman was used differently in the early games, coming in several times with men on base, which of course requires one to be very fine, exact. Could that have led to a subtle change in Heilman's approach, made him too tentative? Aaron is not one who can stand being too delaberate; throw the damn ball is more in his line.

Obviously I have no idea -- or rather too many ideas on what might be up with Heilman.

While I am unloading let me add that I miss Jose Valentin. Some players seem to be field generals; Hernandez of course, and I believe Terry Pendleton filled that role for the 91-92 Braves. Valentin seems like another to me; it's not the same with him down. But never despond!


Aaron Heilman has had an interesting career as a Met. and I understand the sentiment to him. He was drafted progressed as a Met and came up during a dark age with wright and Reyes and has shone. Despite his critics, he has excelled as a bullpen arm..(supporting the view of many media prognosticators (Gammons et al). But the point I am getting to which has not been stated is how that season ending HR by Molina might affect him. His role has been reduced somewhat this yr in that he is NOT the 8th inning set up guy anymore. Furthermore, I disagree with you: I have thought, and continue to think he IS expendable.

Something happened yesterday: Willie (even in his commentary), confirmed something that his trust in Joe Smith is REAL. Joe went more than 1 inning...unnecessarily as Feliciano, or Burgos could have come on. Against atlanta in the first series and again during the 5-2 loss, and several times in between Heilman has failed to keep the game tied or close. It might be injury it might not. And I WANT Heilman to succeed and be happy, as such I'd like to see him (eventually) where he becomes a long man/starter...ala Brendan Donelly.

For the Mets: given the emergence of Smith, Wags is 'better', Schoenweis, Burgos and Feliciano are 'performing'..albeit I see them getting better..Burgos especially. As I said before, I think mota will lift this bullpen two notches, just as he did, filling a void when he was acquired.

NOTE TO METS FANS: Stop Booing Heilman
Give the guy a break...he's a good pitcher, he's struggling right now and like it or not he's our bridge to Wagner. You don't have to be happy if he blows a lead or let's one get away. I wasn't. But the guy wants to be the man. He wants to be a Met. Booing him at home makes no sense if you're a true Met fan. A year ago you were booing Beltran...how dumb was that?
The Mets have a winning record, are a 1/2 game out of 1st place. There's no crisis here folks. This is gonna be a great competetive year of baseball. Relax and enjoy!

Ed - We'll see on Gotay. That hit came on a ball that Uggla should have played. He held his own at the plate and in the field, but I would still expect Easley to get the lion's share of starts.
Salman - I was optimistic about Perez, but didn't expect him to come so far this fast. He has been amazing. If he can continue to progress, he could indeed be a #1 or #2 caliber pitcher for this team.
Gehoff - I agree that too many were willing to completely write off Perez' 2004 season as luck. While luck played a part, it takes a level of consistency to pitch that well over a full year of facing big league hitters.
dd - I have a feeling that Aaron will turn things around. They sure need him.

I miss Valentin, too, he was a real leader of this team.
Ed - You're getting ahead of yourself with this. Joe Smith has only been a major leaguer for a month, and we don't know what Mota is yet. Heilman isn't expendable at this point. My point of view isn't based on "sentiment", either, and it's somewhat insulting for you to infer that.
Sydd - agreed.

Mike: the sentiment isnt yours alone, in fact I like him too. But I still think that there comes a time when a change of scenery is warranted. Even good players get traded.

Ed - Again, I'm not basing this on sentiment. Heilman is not expendable right now. IF Mota comes back AND is pitching well -- IF Joe Smith keeps it up AND his arm doesn't fall off from overuse -- AND Burgos makes more progress -- AND Feliciano and Schoeneweis pick up their game -- THEN Heilman might be expendable and trades could be explored.

I don't get cuddly with players based on whether I like them. Seriously, though, I'm glad you're not the GM if you think this bullpen as it is currently constituted makes Heilman expendable.

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