A day after Vic Black took over the closing duties from Jeff Walters for Triple-A Las Vegas, the hard-throwing righty struck out the side on Wednesday night and picked up his fourth save of the season.
He has now gone four consecutive appearances without issuing a walk and his ERA has improved to 0.68 for the season in 13.1 innings.
Fare thee well, Jose Valverde.
I know that one out of ten of you will look at the title, jump to the comments, and then say something like “No way!” or “Too Wild!”. But please allow me to state my case.
The Mets made the right call in having reliever Vic Black begin the season in the minors mostly due to what was literally a “wild” Spring Training.
Black has often had bouts with his command throughout his pro career, however his incredibly high strikeout rates have always made him an intriguing relief prospect to say the least.
When the Mets acquired him as the PTBNL in the Marlon Byrd trade, it appeared as though his control issues were finally behind him during his late season callup. So much so, that Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins were both hailing him as the potential closer if Bobby Parnell wasn’t ready to begin the season in 2014.
It’s safe to say that we all loved the glimpse we saw and had high hopes for the fire-balling righthander.
Unfortunately for Black, he got off to a rough start at Triple-A Las Vegas, piling up seven walks, two wild pitches, a balk, and a hit-by-pitch in his first five appearances of the season.
However, Black has turned a corner. In his next five appearances he would walk just three batters over a span of five innings. Not great, but certainly a huge improvement for him.
As you can see, Black has allowed just one earned run in his 11.1 innings of work, showing off his capacity to induce a groundball or a strikeout when he absolutely needs it. It’s sort of the mentality the Mets could use in their bullpen right now.
Black spoke to MMO’s Tommy Rothman this past Spring and he had some interesting things to say about his development and goals for this season.
MMO: There is no doubt that you have the arm strength necessary to become a great relief pitcher. The biggest knock on you has always been that your control isn’t good enough. What have you done to address this issue so far, and what plans do you have to improve your command going forward? Do you think you can increase your ability to locate your pitches without sacrificing velocity?
Vic: Sacrificing velocity isn’t something I worry about when locating. Truthfully my [focus] is [on creating] downward angle on the pitch and [keeping] it in the bottom of the strike zone. That in itself keeps me around the plate and it’s hard enough to hit as it is. But repetition is huge. The more you do the better you get, so continuing to keep flat ground work as a part of my daily routine takes care of a lot of the small issues.
MMO: Which pitch do you most want to work on this season?
Vic: Well I’ve been mastering a two-seam as of late, but the season is not where I work on pitches. I take the arsenal I have prepared with into the season, and that’s what you will get. I want guys out, not getting hits off of a pitch I’ve been working on.
One of the things that stood out in our interview with him was his fearlessness on the mound. “There is no place in my mind or heart for fear. I’m the predator, so fear doesn’t enter my thoughts.”
Nobody is calling Black a savior, but who could argue that he wouldn’t be an improvement over Jose Valverde at this point?
And how refreshing would it be to have someone who can dial it up to 100 mph coming out of the pen late in a game?
Cue the “It’s only May and there’s nothing wrong with the bullpen” mantras.