By Mike Steffanos
I get on the media sometimes for their almost relentlessly negative coverage of this team, but I do understand that negative stories tend to draw more attention than the positive ones these days. As print media outlets in particular fight to survive, this is increasingly important.
Still, though, when a player gets a hang nail these days it seems inevitable that all the papers will be full of dire stories that question how the team will be able to survive without him. It gets old after a while.
We all know John Maine is a question mark this season coming off surgery on that bone spur in his shoulder, and that he didn't pitch very well last time out against Washington (3 IP, 5 ER, 2 HR, 5 H, 2K, 2 BB).
Maine was upbeat about his performance, though, and an item in Joel Sherman's Hardball blog is reason for further optimism:
John Maine's statistical line from Tuesday vs. Washington was not very good: Five runs in three innings with five hits, two walks and two homers allowed. Since Maine is coming off of shoulder surgery, lines like that tend to cause concern that maybe he will not be ready for the regular season. But a scout who has seen both of Maine's starts this spring says not to worry. He used the word "rusty" to describe Maine at present.
"His stuff is good," the scout said. "He's not missing by much. I predict he will be fine by end of spring."
The scout said Maine touched 93-94 mph at times with his fastball, and was consistently in the 91-92 mph range, had good velocity on his sliders, threw a few above-average changeups and made good adjustments with his command off of a worse outing against Team Italy. The scout said Maine was hurt by a couple of ground singles that Jose Valentin did not stop that, the scout predicted, Jose Reyes would have.
"The best thing was the velocity," the scout said. "With very little effort, the ball was coming out his hand (well)."
It's nice to hear that for a change. Maine is a key to how good this team could be this year. If he is able to stay healthy and figure out how to cut his pitch count down the Mets are a much stronger team this season.
It's also a reminder that you can't afford to judge a player's spring merely by results. The ones who aren't in danger of not making the team need to use the spring to work on things so than can be better when it counts. It may not look pretty but compiling numbers in the spring has no value at all in the long term, unless you have a player with shaken confidence who needs to rebuild it. Even them, sometimes they have to take a step back to fix a mechanical flaw in their game.