On day two of my trip to Bingo, I am reminded of the words Julius Caesar presumably penned in 47 B.C.: Veni, Vidi, Vici. Translation: I came, I saw, I conquered. I think that sums up my triumphant road trip to Binghamton rather nicely. At least I came and I saw, and I guess I did conquer the cold, but it was the B-Mets that really did the conquering when they picked up their first win of the season on Saturday.
Not only was I about to enjoy a AA B-Met baseball game under a sunny, and cold early April sky, I was about to hit the perfect storm for chatting with players and getting some great photos to post here on the website. You can click on any photo to supersize it.
I arrived at the ballpark at around 10am on Saturday for a 1pm game only to find that there would be no hitting practice before the game. Oh well no worries, it wasn’t long before the pitchers came out for their stretching regimen. Then they played catch and started to throw individual bullpens, one at a time under the watchful tutelage of pitching coach Glenn Abbott.
After watching Erik Turgeon throw his bullpen, I wandered over to the empty dugout and who should emerge? Last night’s starting pitcher Zack Wheeler. I approached him and said, “hey Zack, let me get a photo” and he posed politely while I fired off the shot below. I asked him about the game the night before, and we both agreed it was a brutal night to try to pitch.
I walked with him from the dugout to the bullpen and we chatted about stuff, but I never got to ask him any questions, because after I introduced myself, he had plenty of questions for me, he started asking me about the Savannah Sand Gnats which is his local team in Georgia. I said I hadn’t gotten down there to see them live, but was going to make the trip this season to Lakewood, NJ to watch the Gnats play the Blue Claws in July. Zack told me the Blue Claws ballpark at Lakewood was his favorite minor league park, and that I was going to absolutely love it down there.
Wheeler is a real nice guy, all the players I talked to were, but Zack was the type of guy you could just sit on a porch with, and talk to about anything over a glass of lemonade. After he soft-tossed a little, and talked with his pitching coach, he stood by the picnic area railing signing autographs and chatting with the fans. I noticed him sampling some of the delicious homemade goodies at the concession stand too.
I spotted Brad Holt, the big right-hander who had looked lights out pitching in the eighth inning the night before. I said “hey Brad you got a minute?” He said he had to run, but after that he could talk. I turned around and there was Edgar Martinez, another big righty who had been untouchable for two innings in last night’s game.
Edgar and I talked for the next 5 to 10 minutes. We discussed all kinds of different things, and since this is now Edgar’s seventh season in the Mets organization, he has a wealth of experience and knowledge. I started by asking him what he thought of the team this year. Edgar told me he thought they had the makings of an awesome pitching staff. He went on to rave about the starting rotation, and when I asked him who in the rotation has specifically impressed him, he told me Greg Peavey, and of course Zack Wheeler. Edgar said Peavey throws his fastball with a kind of backspin that can cause it to rise, and said it made the pitch very unique.
We talked about Edgar’s health, as he was injured for much of last season, and he confided that he was battling a string of nagging injuries for a good part of the season. We discussed his arsenal two-seamer, slider, change-up. When I asked him to detail his change he said he used to throw a splitter but that he has now developed a change-up from a variance on the split fastball grip.
I asked him to demonstrate the grip for me, and got a nice photo of it. So, Here’s Edgar’s change-up grip. Pretty interesting, with his thumb and index finger on one side, and his middle and ring finger on the other, it’s like he’s doubling up on the splitter grip. Sorta like a hybrid of the splitter and circle change.
Another interesting conversation I had about how a player grips his change-up was with right-hander Armando Rodriguez. Armando is a very nice young man, very approachable and easy to talk to like so many of his teammates. I asked him if he could demonstrate how he throws his change-up. He told me he has a new change-up, inspired by Johan’s that he is working on now. It is a variation on the grip of his change from before, a circle change grip with the seams which he still throws to righties. The new one is a similar circle grip, but across the seams, and he will be using it against lefties this year.
Next I talked to Greg Peavey right after his bullpen was over. I asked him if it came as any surprise that he made Bingo at the start of this season after only a half-season at St. Lucie? But he seemed unfazed by the fact that his first start of the year Monday night will be against the Erie SeaWolves of the AA Eastern League.
I asked about his repertoire which is very advanced indeed, and consists of two and four-seam fastballs, slider, curveball, and change-up, and he said he was happy with how all his pitches are working. Peavey has truly flown under the radar during his professional career so far, but if he starts strong at AA and builds his confidence as the season wears on, this will be the year he steps from the shadows of Matt Harvey, Familia, Wheeler and Gorski.
“What are you doing for the Easter holiday Greg,” I asked? He told me his family was visiting from the west coast (Washington), and that they planned to make the trek to Cooperstown to see the Baseball Hall of Fame. I told him that was going to be a very special holiday and to enjoy himself.
At about this time my old buddy Collin McHugh was finishing up running in the outfield after his bullpen and came over to talk, we were just chatting about Binghamton, when someone marched up to me and stuck out his hand with a big friendly smile, and said, “my name is Mark.”
“Mark” I said, “Mark Cohoon?” “Yup” came the reply. “Hey how you doing?” I said. “Will you be making your first start Tuesday after Peavey throws?” And he answered yes, that he will make his first start of the year against Erie on Tuesday night. The three of us talked a minute more, and then I said, “hey let me get a pic of you guys,” so they posed for me.
Well I’d like to keep going but this piece will get way too long. I’d better save my interview with Brad Holt for another post. After all, I’m not trying to write the Mets minor league version of “War And Peace.” I mean I haven’t even gotten to the game yet!
Okay, so let’s jump ahead a little, like after I had a nice long talk with catcher Juan Centeno on his way back to the clubhouse. I had an opportunity to tell him about MMO, and how I could make him famous and all that, and got him to grudgingly consent to a sit down interview with me the next time our paths crossed. You don’t think he’ll forget do you? Before he ducked into the tunnel he did stop to say that he was very excited to be able to catch this young pitching staff this year. He said he felt the pitching would be there all year and could carry this team far.
A short time later Gorski began throwing his warm up tosses in the bullpen, game time was getting close. I had scoped out a nice vantage point from which to get some good photos of him as he threw, and I got some really great pics before making my way to behind home plate for fist pitch. Here’s one of the better one’s of Gorski in the bullpen:
Well the game was to be starting in about ten minutes so I picked out a nice spot right behind home plate, took out my camera, limbered up my picture taking finger, and practiced my zoom. A little while later the B-Mets took the field, we all stood for the national anthem and the game began.
Gorski was dealing. Very economical with his pitches, pounding the lower part of the zone. His fastball was consistently hitting 91-mph all game. He gave up his first and only base hit to Aeros centerfielder Ben Copeland leading off the fourth inning.
Copeland lashed a line drive down the left field line, which as it left the bat I assumed would be a double. But LF Pedro Zapata came sprinting from left-center all the way to the line, picked up the ball and rocketed a throw in to the second baseman Oswaldo Navarro in time to nail Copeland.
Gorski also walked three batters but they didn’t fare too well. The first was erased immediately on a double play. The second was picked off first by Gorski and gunned down, Dykstra to shortstop Sean Kazmar. The third walk was with two outs and he stranded the runner on first. In all Gorski pitched six dominant innings, with one hit, no runs, 3 walks and 7 K’s.
Thanks to being staked to an early 1-0 lead in the first inning Gorski picked up his first win of the new season. The Binghamton run scored when Matt den Dekker doubled with one out, and scored on a two-out single to center by Allan Dykstra.
After Gorski left the game, RHP Erik Turgeon was summoned to pitch a scoreless 7th inning. The B-Mets got an insurance run in the bottom of the 7th when Jefry Marte led off with a triple to deep right-field. Oswaldo Navarro followed with a fly ball to right that scored Marte, and gave the B-Mets a 2-0 lead.
LHP Rob Carson was called on to pitch the 8th inning. Bringing mid-90′s heat Carson quickly overmatched the first two hitters striking them both out swinging. But the nine-hole hitter, catcher Roberto Perez sliced a deep drive to RF that cleared the wall, and shaved the Bingo lead to 2-1. Carson then got the next hitter, Copeland, to hit a foul pop in shallow leftfield. Shortstop Sean Kazmar made a very impressive hustle play, covering a ton of real estate and crossing way over the foul line to snag the pop-fly with an all out lunge.
The score would remain 2-1 thanks to LHP Josh Edgin who pitched a scoreless ninth for the second time in less than 24 hours. Edgin didn’t allow a hit, and walked one. The most impressive thing about the ninth inning was the shortstop play of Sean Kazmar. The hitters were pounding the ball into the dirt and Kazmar was getting a lot of slow hoppers hit out to him in the hole between short and third.
The first two batters he was able to throw out by making long accurate throws. After a two-out walk he had another hit out to him that he made a tremendous pivot on and threw to second base for the force to end the game. It was good to see the guys pick up their first win of the season so they can relax and just concentrate on playing good baseball.
It was also good to get out of there before the temperature started to plummet. As I made the three hour drive home on Saturday, I tried to see into the future, tried to imagine how this team would fare this season. Of course, it’s way too early to tell anything, but I have to agree with the B-Mets I talked to, this is a very talented pitching staff. There is also good team speed, and they can flash the leather, if this line-up learns how to score runs they could be a formidable team.
We will be checking in with members of the B-Mets periodically over the course of the season. At some point the offense should get a boost when players like Reese Havens and Sean Ratliff return from injury, and others like Cory Vaughn and Darrell Ceciliani are promoted from St. Lucie. Check back towards the end of the month when Petey Pete hits the road again. This time it will be a series with the AAA Buffalo Bisons against the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs, in Allentown, PA. Hopefully we’ll have lots of great new photos and exclusive interviews coming your way, right here on MMO.
So be sure to visit MMO everyday for ALL your Mets baseball information needs. We got more good Mets stuff than you can find anywhere else. If you missed Part I of this series >click here<