With Josh Thole going on the new 7-day DL with a concussion, Mike Nickeas will get a chance to show what he’s got as an everyday backstop over the next week. This is a wide open opportunity for Nickeas, who has never been known for much more than an above-average arm and a good clubhouse guy.
After being drafted by the Rangers in the fifth round of the 2004 draft, Nickeas worked his way up to Double-A before being traded to the Mets in ’06 for Victor Diaz. There he has bounced up and down before finally getting stints with the big club in 2010, 2011 and then finally breaking camp with the Amazin’s this year as a reserve catcher to Josh Thole.
I’ve talked to Nickeas on a few occasions, one of them being last September shortly after Ronny Paulino went down and Nickeas became the primary backup for a few weeks, creating an opportunity to prove he had the capability to be a major-league baseball player. Here’s one question I asked him on that very topic:
With Ronny Paulino going on the DL, do you feel any extra motivation to show the Mets what you can do in order to secure a spot on the 2012 roster?
“Sure, I want to be ready and put myself in a good position to compete for that role if it’s an opportunity for me, but anytime you’re up here, it’s just about winning, and the more I can be a part of that, the better.”
After the 2011 season ended, the Mets showed tremendous confidence in the 29-year old by not investing in any MLB-level catchers over the winter, indirectly giving Nickeas the reserve job. When I spoke to Nickeas again two weeks ago, I asked him about how that felt for him to know that the Mets had this trust in him going into 2012:
The Mets did not acquire any regular, everyday major league backstop this offseason. How did it feel that Sandy Alderson and the Mets had confidence in you that you could fill that role and be on this major league roster?
“It felt great. It felt like some of the things I did last year, –you never know if some of those things are looked at– some of the intangible qualities that I feel I brought to the team last year, and it was really nice that they recognized that, so it was a big vote of confidence for me and I’m hoping to make them look good.”
Now Nickeas finds himself in a position where he can show the Mets even more of those “intangibles” he mentioned, and show that he is not just a short-term patch to a long-term issue. He’s out to prove that he is in fact the solution to that long-standing issue for the Mets of finding a backstop ever since the reign of Mike Piazza came to a close.
If he can get more hits like that clutch double in the top of the ninth in Monday night’s 5-2 thriller against the Phillies, and continue to improve upon his call game and defensive skills around home plate, then you could be hearing the name Mike Nickeas in Flushing for several years to come. He no doubt has the heart and the drive, he just needs to put it all together at the major league level; and over the next week, don’t be surprised if you start to see exactly that.
This is a man who can recognize when opportunities are put before him and to this point has taken advantage of them over the past few seasons. Keep an watchful eye on Nickeas this week as this latest opportunity has been put before him; you may like what you see.