Mets Merized Online » Jim Mancari Fri, 02 Dec 2016 22:21:08 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Former Mets Chaplain Relives 1986 World Series Thu, 23 Oct 2014 15:08:05 +0000 1986 mets win

Here’s a story I wrote for The Tablet newspaper about former New York Mets’ team chaplain Father Daniel Murphy. A huge Mets’ fan, Father Murphy was there when the Mets made their magical run to capture the 1986 World Series.

Here is his story:

With the start of the World Series, New York Mets’ fans are reminded of a better time, because unfortunately, October baseball is a rarity in Flushing, Queens.

That better time was of course the 1986 World Series in which the Mets relied on a bit of divine intervention to cap off an improbable come-from-behind victory in Game 6, which in turn fueled the series-clinching win in Game 7.

And that divine intervention was provided by none other than the Mets’ team chaplain, Father Daniel Murphy, the current pastor of St. Saviour Church, Park Slope.

Father Daniel Murphy (Photo courtesy NET-TV)

Father Daniel Murphy (Photo courtesy NET-TV)

Father Murphy served as team chaplain for seven seasons from 1984 to 1990. He said Mass at Shea Stadium for every Sunday home game throughout the season. Of course, his fondest memories of his time as chaplain are the 1986 season and playoffs.

“We won 108 games,” said Father Murphy of his favorite team. “Today if you win 92, you make the playoffs. We won 108. We were good!”

The Mets were riding high after winning an exciting playoff series over the Houston Astros, so all that was standing in their way from their first World Series title since 1969 was the Boston Red Sox.

However, it was the Red Sox that earned the upper hand in the series, winning both games at Shea Stadium with the series then shifting to Boston’s Fenway Park.

The Mets rallied to win the next two games but then dropped Game 5 as they headed back to New York facing elimination.

Now, most priests who serve as team chaplains usually pray for the success of all those involved with an athletic contest. But Father Murphy is not your average priest; Father Murphy is a devout Mets’ fan, who also happens to be blatantly honest.

“I was really praying that we’d win,” he said. “I can’t say that I was praying that ‘may the best team win’ and that no one gets hurt.”

The events of Saturday, Oct. 25, 1986 will forever be engrained in the minds of die-hard Mets’ fans. Trailing 5-3 heading into the bottom of the 10th inning, the Mets were just three outs away from watching the Red Sox celebrate a World Series title on their own home turf.

After Wally Backman flew out to left and Keith Hernandez flied to center, hope seemed bleak. But the tides turned with consecutive singles by Gary Carter and Kevin Mitchell.

“I had given up until Kevin Mitchell’s hit,” Father Murphy said of the fateful night. “I knew Carter was not going to go down easily. But when Mitchell got the hit, I think I saw destiny happening!”

And destiny certainly happened. Ray Knight followed with an RBI single to get the Mets within two. With Mookie Wilson batting, a wild pitch by Boston pitcher Bob Stanley allowed Mitchell to score the tying run.

Just like his teammates, Wilson would not go down easily.

“Half of the pitches he (Wilson) swung at were balls, but he wasn’t striking out,” Father Murphy said.

Then on the 10th pitch of at-bat, Wilson grounded a ball toward Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner, and the words of the sweet baritone voice of NBC broadcaster Vin Scully took over from there:

“Little roller up along first … behind the bag! It gets through Buckner! Here comes Knight, and the Mets win it!”

“I will never forget the clubhouse that night,” Father Murphy said. “It was as if they (the Mets) didn’t go home. It was wild!”

Red Sox manager John McNamara later called Wilson’s at-bat the second greatest at-bat in baseball history, behind only Bobby Thomson’s famous “Shot Heard ’Round the World” to send the New York Giants to the 1951 World Series.

So with the series tied, Father Murphy held his typical Sunday Mass at Shea Stadium prior to the game on Oct. 26, 1986. The regulars at Mass – Danny Heep, Rafael Santana and Tim Teufel – were of course present, but other players like Jesse Orosco, Sid Fernandez, Lee Mazzilli, Backman and Wilson all joined in that day.

“Usually when I walked in (to Mass), it was pretty quiet … maybe a few people walking around,” Father Murphy said. “But when I walked in (prior to Game 7), it was like Grand Central!”

Game 7 was actually rained out, but the players’ prayers at Mass were answered the following night, as the Mets defeated the Red Sox 8-5.

Father Murphy may no longer be team chaplain for the Mets, but he continues to pray for the team’s success. Though the baseball gods may not have been listening the past few years, 2015 will be a different story – at least St. Saviour’s pastor hopes so!

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Cyclones Win Wild Walkoff On Hit-By-Pitch Thu, 28 Aug 2014 14:44:41 +0000 Scarlyn Reyes turned in 7.0 innings of two-run ball. (Photo by Jim Mancari)

Scarlyn Reyes turned in 7.0 innings of two-run ball. (Photo by Jim Mancari)

BROOKLYN, N.Y. – In a game that featured three wild pitches in the same inning leading to a critical run, it was a fitting end that the Brooklyn Cyclones earned a victory on a walkoff bases-loaded hit-by-pitch.

The Cyclones (40-31) needed 11 innings to defeat the Staten Island Yankees 3-2 at MCU Park in Coney Island Wednesday night, but the win keeps Brooklyn 2.0 games ahead of the Connecticut Tigers in the Wild Card race with five games left to play.

Brooklyn rebounded from a rough patch in the middle of the season to now be 25-12 over its last 37 games and has outscored its opponents 169-116 in that stretch. Not surprisingly, this stretch coincides with the addition of Mets’ first-round draft pick Michael Conforto to the lineup.

Conforto was 4-for-5 Wednesday night with a run scored. The team is now 18-2 when he scores at least one run. The first rounder now has 16 multi-hit games this season, including five in his last seven games.

“This was a huge one for us,” said Cyclones’ manager Tom Gamboa. “They all are at this stage of the game. You can’t say enough about our pitching, which has been good all year.”

Right-hander Scarlyn Reyes made his sixth start of the season, and after surrendering a first-inning run, he settled in nicely over the next five frames.

With the Cyclones leading 2-1 in top of seventh, Reyes wound up striking out the side. However, after giving up a leadoff single, he threw three wild pitches, allowing the tying-run to come around easily.

Reyes finished with seven strikeouts in 7.0 innings but was tagged with a no-decision.

Both teams couldn’t muster anything offensively over the next four innings. Cyclones’ lefty relievers Kelly Secrest, Shane Bay and Brad Wieck turned in another dominant combined relief effort to keep Brooklyn in the game.

The Cyclones loaded the bases in the bottom of the 11th inning with only one out. To that point, the team had struggled all game with runners in scoring position.

But it was the 18-year-old Amed Rosario who was hit by a pitch to force in the winning run.

Brooklyn heads upstate Thursday to open a three-game game series against the Tri-City Valleycats, the Single-A short season affiliate of the Houston Astros. Martires Arias takes the ball for Brooklyn looking to improve upon his 2-0 record with a 1.10 ERA. Game time is 7 p.m.

The Cyclones control their own destiny with five games to play. If the team can hold on, the first round of the New York-Penn League playoffs would open Wednesday, Sept. 2 at MCU Park.

“We’re two up with five to play,” Gamboa said. “We just have to keep playing.”

Click here to view the complete box score from this game.

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Dice-K’s The Competition, Picks Up Win In Cyclones’ Rehab Start Fri, 22 Aug 2014 04:36:37 +0000 main

BROOKLYN, N.Y. – In front of an over capacity crowd of 8,005 at MCU Park in Coney Island, Daisuke Matsuzaka tossed five scoreless innings for the Brooklyn Cyclones to earn a win in his third rehab start since going on the disabled list with right elbow inflammation July 26.

The Cyclones (36-29) defeated the Staten Island Yankees 2-0 and remain two games ahead of the Connecticut Tigers in the New York-Penn League Wild Card race. It was Brooklyn’s ninth shutout victory of the summer.

The Japanese right-hander struck out seven batters while allowing two hits – both in the first inning – and two walks. He threw 72 pitches – 51 for strikes.

“I’m sure the Mets are going to be very pleased with how he threw, his command, his stuff, and most important of all when he came out after 72 pitches, he said he felt great,” said Cyclones’ manager Tom Gamboa.

Dice-K said there were no problems with his elbow and that he wanted to use all of his pitches in different situations.

“I just wanted to go out there and pitch well and give the team a chance to win,” said Matsuzaka through a translator.

It seemed that every batter he faced was behind in the count, which was something he was conscious of coming into this start.

side“That’s definitely something that I wanted to do today,” he said. “In my previous experience in rehab starts, the guys (opposing hitters) have tended to be pretty aggressive, so I kept that in mind and wanted to attack them early.”

With his start, Matsuzaka became the 20th Major Leaguer to rehab with the Cyclones and the second to do so this season, with Dillon Gee making two rehab starts in Brooklyn earlier this summer. Dice-K joined Tsuyoshi Shinjo (2001) and Kazuo Matsui (2005) as the only Japanese-born players to rehab with the Cyclones.

Matsuzaka ran into a bit of trouble in the top of the first inning, giving up a leadoff double. The bases wound up being loaded with only one out, but Dice-K retired the next two batters via strikeout en route to striking out the side.

The top of the second saw him strikeout the side again, but he only needed 11 pitches to do so unlike his 27-pitch first inning.

He only threw nine pitches to retire the side in the top of the third. After retiring 10 straight batters, he surrendered a walk in the fourth but then retired the side in order in the fifth to conclude his outing.

The Cyclones’ offense rallied at just the right time to get Dice-K the win. Brooklyn first baseman Pedro Perez lined a one-out double to right center, and the next batter, All-Star right fielder Michael Bernal, stroked an RBI double down the right field line to give the Cyclones a 1-0 lead.

The following inning, Cyclones’ second baseman Tyler Moore plated an insurance run with a two-out RBI single up the middle.

Three lefty Cyclones relievers – Brad Wieck, Kelly Secrest and Shane Bay – combined for four scoreless innings in relief of Matsuzaka. The All-Star Bay is now 14-for-14 in save opportunities this season.

intBrooklyn’s starting pitching has been one of its strengths all season, but in the heat of a playoff race, the timing of having a savvy veteran like Matsuzaka make a rehab start was quite perfect.

“For our team, it was huge,” Gamboa said. “From a development standpoint, we have 17 pitchers on our staff here and for them to get a chance to see an established big leaguer, for them to get a chance to watch him warm up, how he goes about his business, how he pitches, his balance point on the rubber and his ability to take the sting out of a hitter’s swing, I think it was good for our pitchers to see.”

As for Matsuzaka’s return to the big club, he said the decision is not up to him but that he feels ready. In fact, he said he felt ready after his previous start in Binghamton. He said he’s not sure whether he’ll start or come out of the bullpen when he returns, but with a big smile on his face, he made it known that he prefers to start.

The Cyclones remain home to open a three-game weekend set against the Tri-City Valleycats, the Single-A short season affiliate of the Houston Astros. Right-hander Martires Arias takes the bump for Brooklyn at 7 p.m.

Click here to view the complete box score from this game.

All photos by Jim Mancari.

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NYPL All-Star Game Ends In A 1-1 Tie Wed, 20 Aug 2014 15:00:00 +0000 National Anthem during the 2014 NYPL All-Star Game (Photo by Jim Mancari)

National Anthem during the 2014 NYPL All-Star Game (Photo by Jim Mancari)

BROOKLYN, N.Y. – MCU Park in Coney Island had the feel of Miller Park in Milwaukee circa July, 2002.

That’s because this year’s 10th annual New York-Penn League (NYPL) All-Star Game finished in a 1-1 tie – just like the 2002 MLB Midsummer’s Classic.

Six Brooklyn Cyclones played Tuesday night in the All-Star Game, representing the South team. It was the second time the Cyclones hosted the league’s All-Star Game – the first was the first-ever game in 2005 – and the first time the 14 teams in the league were split into North and South teams rather than American versus National League affiliates.

Marcos Molina (Photo by Jim Mancari)

Marcos Molina (Photo by Jim Mancari)

Cyclones’ right-hander Marcos Molina started the game for the South All-Stars and turned in a scoreless opening inning, giving up only a two-out single while striking out two. The 19-year-old is 6-2 in 10 starts this summer and is second in the league with a 1.58 ERA. He leads the NYPL with 73 strikeouts and a 0.83 WHIP.

Molina getting the start marked the sixth time in franchise history that a Cyclone has started the All-Star Game, as well as the third straight. Bobby Parnell started the first-ever NYPL All-Star Game in 2005. Mark Cohoon (2009), Yohan Almonte (2010), Luis Mateo (2012) and Miller Diaz (2013) have all earned starting nods in the game.

The other Cyclones’ starter was 18-year-old shortstop Amed Rosario, who batted second in the lineup for the South. He flew out to right field in the first inning and was robbed of a base hit in his second at-bat in the fourth.

For the year, Rosario is batting .286 with 36 runs scored, 14 extra-base hits and 19 RBI. He currently sits third in the NYPL with 66 hits and is tied for the league-lead with five triples.

Cyclones’ righty Corey Oswalt pitched the top of the fourth inning. He surrendered two hits but was able to escape the jam unscathed. In 10 games this season, he’s 6-1 with a 2.26 ERA – third in the NYPL – and has allowed two runs or less in eight of his nine starts.

Cyclones’ third baseman Jhoan Ureña entered the game in the sixth inning, hitting into a fielder’s choice in his first at-bat and grounding out in his second. He’s the only player in the NYPL to appear in all 63 games, and he leads the league in hits (71) and at-bats (240) and is fifth in RBI (38). At just 19 years old, he became the only player in Cyclones’ franchise history to record three hitting streaks of 10 or more games in the same season.

Cyclones’ right fielder Michael Bernal also entered the game as a reserve. He struck out to end the bottom of the seventh inning. Though he’s third in the NYPL with 77 strikeouts on the season, he’s tied for the Cyclones’ team lead with five home runs and is second on the team with 30 RBI. He also leads the team in stolen bases (10) and outfield assists (eight).

Cyclones’ lefty closer Shane Bay entered with two outs in the top of the ninth inning and needed only one pitch to retire the side. He ranks second in the league with 13 saves and has held his opponents scoreless in 14 of his 17 appearances.

In addition to these six players, the Cyclones’ coaches, including first-year manager Tom Gamboa, served as the active staff for the South team during the game.

Before the game, MCU Park was the site of a celebrity/civil servant softball challenge presented by Mercedes Benz of Brooklyn and the Tic Toc Stop Foundation. The game featured members of the FDNY, NYPD and DSNY alongside stars from the world of sports, television and beyond, including Boomer Esiason, Craig Carton, John Franco, Steve Lavin, Chris Mullin, Rosanna Scotto and the Impractical Jokers.

After the softball game, Esiason, Carton, Franco and Lavin all participated in an on-field ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

The Cyclones (35-28) currently hold a full 1.0-game lead in the Wild Card race over the Connecticut Tigers with just 13 games remaining. Brooklyn resumes action Wednesday night to take on the Staten Island Yankees before returning home Thursday.

Click here to view the complete box score from the All-Star Game.

Boomer Esiason, Craig Carton, John Franco and Steve Lavin accept the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. (Photo by Jim Mancari)

Boomer Esiason, Craig Carton, John Franco and Steve Lavin accept the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. (Photo by Jim Mancari)

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Ureña’s Walkoff Hit Lifts Cyclones To Doubleheader Split Thu, 14 Aug 2014 09:00:49 +0000 Jhoan Urena plated the winning run with a walk off single. (Photo by Jim Mancari)

Jhoan Urena plated the winning run with a walk off single. (Photo by Jim Mancari)

BROOKLYN, N.Y. – It was a long night of baseball Wednesday at MCU Park in Coney Island, but the Brooklyn Cyclones emerged in a better position than when the night started.

The Cyclones (31-28) split a seven-inning doubleheader against the Lowell Spinners, the Single-A short season affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, both by a score of 3-2.

A walkoff single by Jhoan Ureña in extra innings of the second game gave Brooklyn a needed win after dropping the first contest. The split, coupled with the Connecticut Tigers getting swept in a doubleheader, brings the Cyclones within a half game of the Wild Card lead in the New York-Penn League (NYPL).

The 19-year-old Ureña finished the day 3-for-7 with three RBI. After hitting safely in both games, the All-Star third baseman now has a nine-game hitting streak. He’s also the only player in the NYPL to play in all 59 games this season.

Defense was a bit of a problem for the Cyclones in the doubleheader, as the team committed four errors. All five Spinners’ runs were scored due to an error that started or prolonged a rally. Ureña made an error in Game 2, which led to the tying run scoring, but he rebounded two innings later to plate the winning run.

“I just moved past it,” Ureña said of the error. “It was an error, it happens. I just kept my head up, and all I could think about was the game now. I couldn’t think about the past.”

Brooklyn mounted a rally in the final inning of Game 1, but with the tying and winning runs on base, Mets’ first-round draft pick Michael Conforto struck out swinging on a ball he fouled tipped into the catcher’s glove. He’s cooled off with the bat slightly but is still hitting .319 (30-for-94) on the season.

In Game 2, Martires Arias turned in another solid effort in his second start for the Cyclones since being called up from Kingsport. His first start (6.0 shutout innings with six strikeouts) earned him NYPL Pitcher of the Week honors last week.

The 6-foot, 8-inch righty from the Dominican Republic turned in two scoreless innings to start the game, which ran his scoreless innings streak between Kingsport and Brooklyn to 24.0 innings, but he surrendered a run in the top of third inning.

He was lifted after 5.1 innings, giving up five hits and two runs (both earned) while walking none and striking out seven.

“We’re very pleasantly surprised with how good his (Arias) command is,” said Cyclones’ manager Tom Gamboa. “I think he did a terrific job. We’re real proud of him, and I think he’s shown tremendous poise and composure here.”

All-Star shortstop Amed Rosario also had a solid day at the plate, collecting three hits, two walks and three run scored. He led off the eighth inning of Game 2 with a single to right field and scored the game-winning run on Ureña’s walkoff hit.

With less than 20 games to go, the playoff race should be intense down the stretch.

“It looks like it’s going to go right down the wire,” Gamboa said. “If we would have lost two tonight, that would have really, really hurt.”

The Cyclones return to action Thursday night at MCU Park looking for a sweep over the Spinners. Righty Corey Oswalt (5-1, 2.84 ERA), who was selected to Tuesday’s All-Star Game, takes the mound to close out the series.

Click here to view the complete box score from these games.

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Video: Gil Hodges Once Again Up For Hall of Fame Election Wed, 13 Aug 2014 13:04:19 +0000 I’m sure it’s been something that has been debated quite often on this site as to whether Gil Hodges should be enshrined along with his legendary Brooklyn Dodgers’ teammates in Cooperstown.

Well, Gil will be up for election again this December at the Winter Meetings.

To increase awareness of Gil’s cause, here is a television segment I put together. Please share it out, so that Gil rightfully takes his place this winter alongside baseball immortals.

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Six Cyclones Headed To NYPL All-Star Game Sat, 09 Aug 2014 23:54:09 +0000 The Cyclones were all smiles on Opening Day. (Photo by Jim Mancari)

From the Brooklyn Cyclones

On Tuesday, Aug. 19, the best and brightest from around the New York-Penn League will descend upon MCU Park for the 10th annual NYPL All-Star Game presented by Mercedes Benz of Brooklyn and the Tic Toc Stop Foundation.

It will mark the second time in franchise history that the game has been played on Coney Island, and the Brooklyn Cyclones will be well represented. Six Cyclones have been selected to the game, including three teenagers.

Shortstop Amed Rosario, thirrd baseman Jhoan Ureña and right-handed Marcos Molina, who are all 19 years or younger, will be joined by righty pitcher Corey Oswalt, lefty closer Shane Bay and right fielder Michael Bernal.

Rosario, who was named the top prospect in the Appalachian League by Baseball America following the 2013 season, has been an offensive force for the Cyclones all season long. The 18-year-old shortstop is batting .284 (56-for-197) with 30 runs scored, 10 extra-base hits and 14 RBI. Since July 17, he is batting .312 (29-for-93) and has hit safely in 17 of his last 21 games. He ranks second in the NYPL with 56 hits and is tied for the NYPL lead with five triples.

Ureña, a 19-year old third baseman, is the only player in the New York-Penn League to appear in every game this season. The Santiago, Dominican Republic, native is only the second player in franchise history to have two hitting streaks of 10 or more games in the same season. His pair of 13-game hitting streaks joins Angel Pagan as the only pair of double-digit hitting streaks in franchise history. Urena leads the NYPL in hits, at-bats and games played.

Molina, a 19-year-old fireballer, has been a dominant force on the mound all season long. The 6-foot, 3-inch, 188-pound hurler is 5-1 with a 1.27 ERA in eight starts this season. The Santiago, Dominican Republic, native has not allowed more than two earned runs in any outing this season. He leads the NYPL with a 1.27 ERA, ranks second in strikeouts with 50 and leads the league in WHIP (0.85) and opponents batting average (.173).

Oswalt, who missed most of the 2013 season with a knee injury, has rebounded in a big way this season. The 20-year-old right-hander is 5-1 with a 2.54 ERA in nine games (eight starts) this season. The San Diego native has 46 strikeouts in 49.2 innings this season and has allowed two runs or less in seven of his eight starts. Oswalt will be more than comfortable on the mound at MCU Park, where he is 4-0 with a 2.04 ERA this season. He ranks fourth in the NYPL with a 2.54 ERA and fifth in opponents batting average (.226).

Bay, who also missed the majority of the 2013 season due to an elbow injury, currently ranks second in the New York-Penn League with 11 saves in as many chances. In 15 games, he has tossed 16.2 innings, allowing just four runs on 16 hits while striking out 15 batters. He is unscored upon in 12 of his 15 appearances this year.

Bernal, a slugging right fielder, ranks second in the NYPL with eight outfield assists on the season. He also leads the Cyclones with five home runs, 30 RBI and 10 stolen. He has had two four-hit games on the year including a four-hit, four-RBI game against the Lowell Spinners on July 27.

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Conforto Discusses Approach; Not A Candidate For Arizona Fall League Tue, 05 Aug 2014 20:30:59 +0000 michael conforto Patrick E. McCarthy

Update: According to Adam Rubin Michael Conforto is not a consideration for the Arizona Fall League. The Mets will not announce their contingent until late this month, but Brandon Nimmo and Gavin Cecchini are candidates.

* * * * * * * *

The Brooklyn Cyclones burst out of the gate this summer season to the tune of an 11-4 record in their first 15 games.

However, over the next three weeks, the team struggled offensively after its fast start to come back to the pack in the New York-Penn League.

But on July 19, the Cyclones finally received the consistent offensive punch the lineup lacked in the form of Mets first-round draft pick Michael Conforto.

Signing Conforto proved to be a lengthy process, but judging by his first 16 games for Brooklyn, it seems the organization’s patience has certainly been worth the wait.

In these games, the lefty-swinging Conforto is hitting .362 (21-for-58) with five doubles, two home runs and nine RBI. He’s homered in each of his last two games, including an absolute bomb into the right-field bleachers on Saturday – where long drives typically get gobbled up by the Coney Island wind – and an opposite field shot on Sunday.

IMG_8348Right away, it seemed that Conforto had an idea in each at-bat of what he wanted to do at the plate.

“I’m very comfortable,” the first rounder said. “I think I’ve just kind of settled into a mode where I’m seeing the ball well and I’m in a rhythm. I’m getting a lot of pitches to hit, so I’m just doing what I can with them and hitting the ball where it’s pitched.”

The Cyclones are 11-5 since Conforto joined the team, and the team’s offensive attack has picked up significantly. With his presence in the lineup, the other hitters have undoubtedly been getting better pitches to hit.

“A lot of guys have really stepped up swinging,” Conforto said. “I think it is fair to say that maybe me being there in the middle of the lineup helps other guys and maybe I’m protecting some people, but I wouldn’t be taking all that credit. We’ve just been playing really well together as a team.”

Cyclones’ manager Tom Gamboa has praised Conforto’s approach offensively and said he hopes the other Cyclones players are paying attention when Michael is at the plate or even taking batting practice.

Conforto said he credits the coaches and players at Oregon State University for helping him develop his patient approach – that seems to fit in very well with the Mets’ current hitting philosophy.

“Out of high school, I wasn’t the hitter I am now at all,” he said. “They (college coaches) really stressed the importance to me of swinging at high percentage pitches for hitters and letting the pitches that are low percentage go, which are out of the strike zone anyways. You take those balls, you get on base, you walk, and you’re also getting better pitches to hit as a hitter. There’s really no down side to it.”

It seems like every Conforto at-bat is pre-scripted. He’ll get up there and take a few pitcher’s pitches – even if they wind up being called strikes – until he a gets pitch he can handle. And when he does, he usually hits it hard somewhere.

“My hitting approach is fairly simple: I’m hunting for fastballs,” Conforto said. “Something straight is the easiest ball to hit, and I’ve been getting a lot of those lately, and that’s why the results have been showing up. Staying to the opposite field has helped me with the off-speed stuff because I’m still staying back long enough to get the bat on the ball when it’s coming in slower.”

As for his defense, the knock on him when he was drafted was that he wasn’t exactly a prototypical Major League outfielder. But he seems to be on a mission to prove the naysayers wrong.

Already he has four outfield assists and has made several acrobatic plays in left field. He said he kept his arm in shape while he was at home prior to reporting to Brooklyn and that the Cyclones’ coaching staff has helped him work on some little things to help refine his defense.

“That (defense) is something that I think was out there as a question mark, and I took that as a challenge personally,” Conforto said. “I made it a priority to work on that part of my game. I can see where that might come from to be honest. Maybe I had a bad couple of games in the outfield that some people saw, so any of that criticism is constructive for me, and I take that and use it to make myself better.

“I definitely have worked at it, and I will still work on it. You’re never perfect in this game, and so I’ll keep working on it and practicing. Repetition makes you as good as you could possibly be.”

IMG_8381It’s this sort of hardworking attitude that has made Conforto an instant fan-favorite in Brooklyn. He said he loves interacting with the fans before and after games.

“It’s really cool hearing them call my number and my name,” the 21-year-old said. “It’s pretty awesome that so quickly they’ve taken to me, and I enjoy it and that’s why I’m out there signing autographs.

“I like signing stuff for kids. It’s a lot of fun for me. As a kid, I was always asking for autographs, and I remember not getting them and being upset about it. I like to sign as many autographs as I can.”

Here’s a note to Cyclones’ fans that still haven’t gotten Michael’s autograph: You better hurry up!

If Conforto keeps hitting at his torrid pace, the Mets may be wise to promote him to Savannah. Sure, there’s no rush in his progression through the system, but he eventually needs more of a challenge than Single-A short season pitching.

But meanwhile, the Cyclones are in the thick of a playoff race, and it’s no secret that Conforto is a major factor in the team’s postseason hopes. Winning a New York-Penn League title maybe isn’t tops on the Mets’ priority list, but getting Conforto some seasoning in big spots – like a meaningful playoff series – could pay dividends in his development.

For now though, Conforto seems content with raking for the Cyclones, and Gamboa is happy to pencil his slugger’s name into the lineup each day.

Here’s hoping for continued success, and of course a clean bill of health, for the Mets first-rounder.

Photo Credits: Jim Mancari, MMO, Patrick E. McCarthy

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Cyclones Winning Streak Snapped After Brutal Loss Fri, 01 Aug 2014 14:05:06 +0000 Octavio Acosta (Photo by Jim Mancari)

Octavio Acosta (Photo by Jim Mancari)

BROOKLYN, N.Y. – Thursday night at MCU Park in Coney Island was Irish Heritage Night.

But unfortunately for the Brooklyn Cyclones, the “luck of the Irish” was nowhere to be found.

The Cyclones (24-23) dropped a 14-3 contest to the Auburn Doubledays, the Single-A short season affiliate of the Washington Nationals. Brooklyn had won five straight games before the loss.

Cyclones’ starter Octavio Acosta fell to 3-3 on this season, as he lasted just 3.0 innings while giving up six runs (four earned) on five hits while walking two. It was the second straight night in which the Cyclones’ starting pitcher lasted just less than four innings.

“It was an ugly game,” said Cyclones’ manager Tom Gamboa. “Acosta has pitched so good this year. The first four hitters of the game was typical him. But as soon as he walked a guy with one out in the second, he just completely lost it.”

Meanwhile, after the game, Acosta was promoted to the Savannah Sand Gnats.

The Cyclones trailed 4-2 heading into the top of the fourth inning, but reliever Brandon Welch struggled through the next two innings, giving up eight earned runs.

Welch surrendered two home runs – a rarity at MCU Park. Auburn first baseman Jose Marmolejos hit a two-run shot to left, and left fielder Jeff Gardner drilled a three-run bomb deep into a right field bleachers – where balls typically get knocked down from the wind coming off the water.

“I’ve never seen a ball by a left-handed hitter (Gardner) hit like that in this park,” Gamboa said.

In total, Cyclones’ pitchers surrendered 14 hits to go along with 10 walks and three hit-batsmen. That usually is not a successful recipe for a win.

First-round draft pick Michael Conforto had a rough day at the plate. He hit a few balls squarely but ultimately finished 0-for-5 with four runners left on base. He’s still hitting .367 through his first 13 games in which the Cyclones are 9-4.

On the bright side, four Cyclones – shortstop Amed Rosario, right fielder Michael Bernal, second baseman/catcher Tyler Moore and center fielder Tucker Tharp – all had multi-hit games.

Brooklyn will try to win the series against the Doubledays Friday night at 7 p.m. at MCU Park. It will be Gil Hodges bobblehead night, and righty Corey Oswalt (4-1, 2.56 ERA) takes the hill looking to continue his strong summer season.

Click here to view the complete box score from this game.

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From Left Field: Mets Should Look To Red Sox As Trade Partners In Offseason Thu, 31 Jul 2014 20:10:37 +0000 Yoenis Cespedes at the 2013 Home Run Derby at Citi Field (Photo by Jim Mancari)

Yoenis Cespedes at the 2013 Home Run Derby at Citi Field (Photo by Jim Mancari)

So another July 31 trade deadline has passed, and while the Mets maybe weren’t so active right now, some of the deals that occurred could actually affect the Amazin’s this offseason.

The Boston Red Sox completely overhauled their pitching staff by trading Jon Lester and John Lackey, as well as Felix Doubront and Andrew Miller.

In exchange, the Sox received two prominent outfielders: Yoenis Cespedes and Allen Craig. In looking at the team’s pitching however, it leaves must to be desired.

That’s where the Mets come into play.

It’s no secret that the Mets need a bat, and now the Red Sox could use a few arms, which the Mets have. So I wonder if these teams will be talking this offseason.

Starting with the Red Sox, let’s take a look at how their outfield would shape up next season. Shane Victorino is still under contract. Jackie Bradley Jr. – though he’s struggled with the bat at times – provides excellent defense in center field. Brock Holt has hit well in a limited sample, and Daniel Nava could be a solid option as a fourth or fifth outfielder. And don’t forget that the team has a big-time outfield prospect in Mookie Betts.

Naturally, one of the corner spots would be filled by either Cespedes or Craig. So let’s hypothetically say that next year’s outfield in Boston will consist of Cespedes or Craig in left, Bradley Jr./Holt in center and Victorino in right.

Since David Ortiz and Mike Napoli will still be around, that limits Craig to solely an outfield role, rather than playing first base or DH – though he could fill in at times in those spots but likely not regularly to warrant keeping him, given the team’s pitching holes.

If I were the Mets, I would inquire this offseason to see if Cespedes or Craig will be available via trade. Certainly, Cespedes would be the huge bat the Mets need for the middle of the order, but a guy like Craig coming off a tough year could be a smart gamble, especially given his versatility.

Cespedes has one year at $10.5 million remaining on his contract after this season. That’s a bargain considering his offensive production, not mention his ability to gun down runners at any base.

Craig meanwhile has three years left on his contract with a $13 million club option for 2018.

I’m not crazy about the idea of giving up a Noah Syndergaard or Jacob deGrom type prospect for A) a guy like Cespedes who only has one year left on his deal or B) a lesser player like Craig who has too many years left.

But if the Mets could negotiate an extension with Cespedes as part of a trade, now we’re talking.

And as far as Craig, a package of lesser prospects along with maybe Dillon Gee or Jon Niese could get a deal done. Even a straight-up deal for one of the veteran pitchers may work.

Cespedes to me is the impact bat the Mets are seeking. Craig I feel is more of a stopgap player, and the team already has too many of those.

So let’s see if Sandy Alderson gives the Red Sox a call this offseason.

Let me post this to the audience: Would you rather see the team try to acquire Cespedes knowing it would take Syndergaard or deGrom (and other prospects potentially too), or would you settle for Craig for a package centered around Gee or Niese, rather than the young electric arms?

Certainly a tough call.

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Conforto Shines, Cyclones Win 5th Straight Under Watchful Eye of Alderson, DePodesta Thu, 31 Jul 2014 13:59:59 +0000 Sandy Alderson and Paul DePodesta visited MCU Park Wednesday night, likely to check out first-round pick Michael Conforto. (Photo by Jim Mancari)

Sandy Alderson and Paul DePodesta visited MCU Park Wednesday night, likely to check out first-round pick Michael Conforto. (Photo by Jim Mancari)

BROOKLYN, N.Y. – The Brooklyn Cyclones welcomed a few special visitors Wednesday night at MCU Park in Coney Island: Mets general manager Sandy Alderson and vice president of player development and scouting Paul DePodesta.

And it’s no secret whom they likely were there to see: first-round draft pick Michael Conforto.

Conforto once again had a big night at the plate, helping the Cyclones (24-22) to a 9-4 victory over the Auburn Doubledays, the Single-A short season affiliate of the Washington Nationals.

The win is Brooklyn’s fifth straight and keeps the team in the lead for the Wild Card spot with just over a month left to the summer season.

Michael Conforto was on on base in all five plate appearances. (Photo by Jim Mancari)

Michael Conforto was on base in all five plate appearances. (Photo by Jim Mancari)

Conforto finished the night 3-for-3 – all singles – with two RBI, two runs scored, a walk and a hit-by-pitch to reach base in all five plate appearances.

The three hits bring his batting average to .409 through his first 12 pro games, with an even more impressive .490 on-base percentage. He’s now hit safely in 11 of his 12 games.

In those 12 games, the Cyclones are 9-3 and have averaged 5.8 runs per game. The other bats have been picking up as a result of Conforto’s presence in the middle of the lineup.

“He’s (Conforto) a huge part of it,” said Cyclones’ manager Tom Gamboa. “He extends the lineup. He’s a living example of what the Mets are trying to preach in hitting about taking pitches, even if they’re strikes, that are not good pitches for you to hit and give the guy (opposing pitcher) a chance to make a mistake. And once again, he’s just a hitting machine.”

Conforto though – the humble ballplayer that he is – is taking no individual credit for the team’s recent offensive outburst.

“We’ve just been playing really well as a team,” the first-rounder said. “A lot of guys have really stepped up, and everyone has started to swing the bat a little better. Maybe it’s a coincidence, maybe not.”

The Cyclones did the bulk of their damage in the bottom of the second inning, sending 11 men to plate and putting up a touchdown and the extra point – seven runs – in the frame on five hits while taking advantage of a few Doubledays’ mistakes.

Usually with a seven-run lead, a pitcher can settle in and give his team some length. However, that was not the case for the normally-reliable Scarlyn Reyes, who lasted only 3.2 innings in his third start of the season, giving up two runs on four hits and walking a season-high four batters.

From there though, five Cyclones relievers – Mike Hepple, Paul Paez, Luis Rengel, Juan Urbina and Cameron Griffin – combined to hold Auburn to just two runs on four hits the rest of the way.

Brooklyn continues its six-game homestand Thursday night against the Doubledays. Right-hander Octavio Acosta gets the ball at 7 p.m. seeking his fourth win of the summer.

Click here to view the complete box score from this game.

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First-Rounder Michael Conforto Shines In Cyclones Loss Sat, 26 Jul 2014 12:42:01 +0000 BROOKLYN, N.Y. – It was Italian Heritage Night Friday at MCU Park in Coney Island, so that was the perfect setting for a big night from Mets first-round draft pick Michael Conforto.

Michael  Conforto (Photo by Jim Mancari)

Michael Conforto (Photo by Jim Mancari)

The 21-year-old Oregon State University product finished 2-for-4 with an RBI double, and he added a stellar defensive play in foul territory and an outfield assist – his second in two nights.

However, Conforto’s effort was not enough, as the Brooklyn Cyclones (19-22) fell by a score of 5-2 to the Vermont Lake Monsters, the Single-A short season affiliate of the Oakland Athletics. The team is now 4-3 since Conforto joined the team July 19.

Conforto has recorded at least one hit in all seven games he’s played in his first week of professional baseball. In this small sample, he’s hitting .407 (11-for-27) with four doubles and three RBI.

“He (Conforto) take’s a lot of pride in his game, and his at-bats have just been terrific right from day one,” said Cyclones’ manager Tom Gamboa. “The rest of the guys can learn from him in BP and in his pitch selection in the games.”

The first-rounder singled sharply up the middle in his first at-bat and then followed that up with a two-out RBI double into the right field corner in the bottom of third inning to plate the Cyclones’ first run.

He later hit two balls hard to the left side, which went for outs, but he said he feels comfortable hitting the ball to all fields.

“I’m very comfortable,” Conforto said of his offensive production in his first week. “I think I’ve just kind of settled into a mode where I’m seeing the ball well and getting into a rhythm and getting confident. I’m getting a lot of pitches to hit, a lot of fastballs, and I’m doing what I can with them in trying to hit the ball where it’s pitched.”

Conforto’s defense has also impressed early on in his tenure in Brooklyn, especially his throwing.

“It’s one of those things that I’ve worked on, trying to get my arm in shape and making sure that when I was back home I wasn’t losing any arm strength,” Conforto said. “It (his defense) was something that was out there as a question mark, and I took that as a challenge personally. I’ve made it a priority to work on that part of my game.”

Michael  Conforto greets Brooklyn fans. (Photo by Jim Mancari)

Michael Conforto greets Brooklyn fans. (Photo by Jim Mancari)

“The reports on him (Conforto) were adequate defensively, and we’re seeing way beyond that,” Gamboa said. “For a 21-year-old, he’s miles ahead of most guys I see come into professional baseball. That was his reputation coming here. That’s what we were told, except that he runs, throws and fields better than people gave him credit for. The focus was on his bat, but everybody is seeing a more complete player here.”

Righty Octavio Acosta started on the mound for the Cyclones and was able to pitch out of a few early jams up until the top of the fifth inning, in which eight Lake Monsters came to bat to plate three runs.

Acosta had gone at least 6.0 innings in each of his five starts since his 4.2-inning outing on Opening Day. But he only lasted five innings in this one and surrendered a season-high 10 hits. He falls to 3-2 on the summer with the loss.

The Cyclones only mustered seven hits on the night. One of those was a seeing-eye double over the third-base bag for third baseman Jhoan Ureña, which increases his hitting streak to 11 games. The 19-year-old had a 13-game hitting streak earlier this summer, and he joins Angel Pagan (2001) as the only two players in Cyclones’ franchise history to record two 10-game hitting streaks in the same season.

Although the team has cooled off since its hot start, it’s still very much alive in the Wild Card race with the season just beyond the halfway point. Brooklyn came into play at only 2.0 games behind the Staten Island Yankees and Williamsport Crosscutters in the race for the final playoff spot.

The team is back in action at home Saturday night, looking for a series win against the Lake Monsters. Texas native Corey Oswalt bids for his fourth win of the summer at 6 p.m.

Click here to view the complete box score from this game.

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From Left Field: All-Star Break Came At The Worst Possible Time Fri, 25 Jul 2014 15:11:37 +0000 2014-mlb-all-star-game-logo

Most pro baseball players long to have a few days off at the All-Star break in mid-July each year.

It’s a total grind to play almost every day for three and half months, so the four-day break is well-deserved.

But for the Mets this year, the All-Star break came at the worst possible time. The team was scorching hot, but that hot-streak has since flared out in the seven games after the break.

The Mets were the hottest team in the National League to end the unofficial first half at 8-2 in their last 10 games. They were only five games under .500, and the feelings around the team were very positive for a change.

The team was pitching and hitting well and finding ways to win games late. There were a few come-from-behind wins, and the team rose up to the challenge against some All-Star pitchers including Yu Darvish, Julio Teheran and Henderson Alvarez.

Sometimes, the best method to continue a hot streak is to keep playing continuously. You’re in the zone, and you just keep riding the wave of success.

But the All-Star break really crushed the momentum of this team. Yes, they’re on a difficult road trip, but they have barely touched the ball offensively after clicking on all cylinders right before the break.

They’ve scored only 15 runs in the seven games since the break, which averages to 2.14 runs per game. Even with a strong pitching staff, that amount of runs will rarely be able to sustain a long winning streak.

And on a night like last night where Dillon Gee implodes, there’s virtually no chance of winning.

Maybe this recent stretch is the team returning to normalcy. It could also signify the Mets being sellers at this year’s trade deadline.

But on the other hand, the Mets showed the potential that they have right before the break. Sure, basically everything has to be perfect every night, but if the team showed it could rattle off eight wins in 10 games, what’s to say they can’t do that again?

The All-Star break is usually the deciding factor of which teams are in the race and which are beginning to look ahead to the next season. But with the second Wild Card spot, teams on the fringe are hanging on to every possible hope of playing postseason baseball.

As of today, the Mets are 8.5 games out of the division and 7.0 games out of the Wild Card. There are plenty of divisional matchups left to make up some ground in the division, but earning a Wild Card spot would require jumping over five teams.

Really the next week before the deadline is going to be critical. If this team can find ways to win, maybe they look to acquire some help right now. But if the recent trend of an inept offense continues, it’s time to regroup towards next year, which would include bringing up some of the young arms to see what we’ve got.

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Amed Rosario’s Big Night Not Enough in Cyclones 7th Straight Loss Fri, 18 Jul 2014 14:09:20 +0000 Amed Rosario (Photo by Jim Mancari)

Amed Rosario (Photo by Jim Mancari)

BROOKLYN, N.Y. – For the Brooklyn Cyclones, the “Curse of SNY” continues.

The Mets Single-A short season squad was televised Thursday night on SNY, and the team dropped an 8-6 contest in 10 innings to the Jamestown Jammers, the short season affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates, at MCU Park in Coney Island.

The Cyclones (15-18) are now 2-6 in the past three years when being televised on the Mets’ TV network and have been outscored 50-27 in those games. The loss is also the seventh straight for Brooklyn, which is 4-14 in its last 18 games after getting off to a fast 11-4 start. The losing streak matched the second longest streak in franchise history, and four errors certainly didn’t help with the effort.

“Losing teams will find ways to lose, and unfortunately, we’re in the midst of that right now,” said Cyclones manager Tom Gamboa. “This is a game tonight that we didn’t lose as much as we flat out just gave it away. These guys will learn that no one feels sorry for you in this game. This will keep happening until they make a decision as a unit that enough is enough.”

Other than committing an error, young shortstop Amed Rosario had a good night at the plate, finishing 4-for-5 with two doubles and two RBI. He’s now hitting .284 on the season, which is almost at the halfway point. Third baseman Jhoan Ureña also drove in two runs on the night.

But the Cyclones’ collective offensive struggles continued in the loss to the Jammers. In what wound up being the Cyclones longest game of the season at 4:03, Brooklyn jumped out to a 5-0 lead after the first two innings, and those five runs were more than the team scored in any full game during the six previous contests.

However, Brooklyn only mustered one run over the next eight innings, which allowed Jamestown to claw back for the victory.

Cyclones closer Shane Bay suffered his first loss of the season after surrendering two runs in the top of 10th inning. Right hander Casey Meisner started for Brooklyn and only lasted 2.1 innings, giving up four runs on five hits and three walks.

The team’s strikeout rate has been through the roof through the first 32 games of the summer. In 1,051 official at-bats, Cyclones’ batters have struck out 305 times, which is a 29.1 percent rate. They’ve had 14 games in which they’ve amassed 10 or more strikeouts.

“We’ll just have to regroup again tomorrow,” Gamboa said. “It’s not fun to get beat day after day, especially when we give it away like we did tonight.”

The team should receive an offensive boost when Mets first-round draft pick Michael Conforto makes his professional debut Saturday. Meanwhile, the team will try to snap its losing skid Friday night at home against the Jammers, as lefty Carlos Valdez bids for his third win of the season.

Click here to view the complete box score of this game.

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Which Pitching Prospects Go First In A Blockbuster Trade? Thu, 17 Jul 2014 20:40:04 +0000 So we all know by now that the Mets have a stacked farm system when it comes to pitching.

Sure, the big club has been clicking on all cylinders recently, but in order to ensure sustained success, all the talk has been leading to the team needing one more big bat in the middle of the lineup.

The major areas for upgrade at this point are left field and shortstop. Even if a blockbuster trade is held off until the offseason, the Mets would undoubtedly have to tap into their well of strong pitching prospects in order to get the bat they so desperately desire.

So I’ve been thinking: Who would the Mets be willing to part with in a trade for the likes of Giancarlo Stanton (long shot), Troy Tulowitzki (long shot) or Starlin Castro (not as much of a long shot)?

Jacob deGrom

Heading into next year, the following pitchers are all under team control: Matt Harvey, Dillon Gee, Jon Niese, Bartolo Colon, Jacob deGrom, Zack Wheeler, Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero. Throw in the quickly rising Steven Matz, Darin Gorski, Logan Verrett, Cory Mazzoni, Hansel Robles and Gabriel Ynoa – and not to mention Jeremy Hefner returning from injury – and there are almost too many arms to choose from, though having too much pitching really never is a bad thing.

But rather than go into next season with all these arms trying to fill five spots, the team will look to package one or two of them in blockbuster trade for a bat.

So who’s the first to go?

We know Colon might be on the way out before this trade deadline, so don’t worry about him. Harvey’s not going anywhere, and even Wheeler would appear to be safe given his potential.

Having a lefty like Niese is essential, and it seems Gee turns in a solid effort every time out.

So that leaves Syndergaard, deGrom and Montero.

deGrom has dazzled since his call-up to the point where he’s a legitimate consideration for the rotation next year even when Harvey returns.

Montero struggled a bit in a few starts earlier this year, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be effective at the big-league level.

And “Thor” has had an up and down year, but we still have to see what he can do in the bigs.

What a difficult decision for Sandy Alderson?

Porpspects like Noah Syndergaard will ultimately determine how Alderson is remembered by Mets fans.

I’m thinking any team would want at least two pitching prospects in a trade and maybe even a third from the group of lower-level arms.

It’s such a crapshoot here.

Does Alderson hang onto Thor given that he traded Cy Young award winner R.A. Dickey to get him?

Does he keep deGrom given his string of dominant starts this year?

Or does he take the scouts advice in that Montero is a polished pitcher with a high ceiling?

Even if the Mets would be willing to trade Gee, other teams likely wouldn’t want him. It’s not that Gee is not a reliable pitcher – which other than some injuries he’s proven to be.

But the other teams would want the Mets young, electric, talented arms that could evolve into aces of a staff. Gee is stable middle of the rotation pitcher, even though at times he’s pitched like an ace.

At this point, are the Mets so invested in their pitching prospects that maybe they just hang onto all of them and continue to piece together the holes until a few position prospects (Brandon Nimmo, Matt Reynolds, etc.) are ready?

It’s unlikely that all the young arms are going to pan out as expected, but for the ones that do, I sure hope they’re wearing orange and blue.

What I’d hate to see is the two prospects that get traded for an impact bat become dominant starters, even if the hitter contributes for a few years.

It’s your call, Sandy. Much luck to you! You’re going to need it!


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Gee Feels Fine After Rehab Start, Cyclones Drop Rubber Game To Staten Island Mon, 30 Jun 2014 12:00:48 +0000 Dillon Gee warming up in the bullpen (Photo by Diana Colapietro)

Dillon Gee warming up in the bullpen (Photo by Diana Colapietro)

BROOKYLN, N.Y. – On Sunday afternoon at MCU Park in Coney Island, Mets’ starting pitcher Dillon Gee returned to his old stomping grounds as he made a rehab start for the Brooklyn Cyclones.

Gee settled in nicely after a rough first inning and tossed 2.2 innings, but he was tagged with the loss after giving up a run on four hits. He also walked one and struck out six.

The Cyclones (11-6) dropped the rubber game 5-4 Sunday against the Staten Island Yankees in the “Battle of the Bridge” series.

Gee threw 55 pitches – which was the exact number he was slated to throw – in addition to a 30-pitch warm-up session. He has been on the disabled list with a strained lat muscle in his right side since May 14.

This was Gee’s second rehab start, as he also started a game last Tuesday in the Gulf Coast League. In that outing, he pitched two scoreless innings and allowed only one hit with two strikeouts.

“I feel good right now, but the big test is always the next day. So hopefully everything goes the way that it’s been going, and hopefully I’ll be out there for the next one.”

It took Gee 24 pitches to get through the first inning Sunday. Yankees’ center fielder Daniel Lopez led off with a bloop double to right. Gee proceeded to walk right fielder Austin Aune before an RBI single up the middle by second baseman Ty McFarland on an 0-2 pitch up in the zone that gave the Yankees their only run off Gee.

He then gave up a single to Yankees’ catcher Isaias Tejeda before striking out two and getting a fielder’s choice grounder to end the inning.

Gee minimized the damage in the first inning, allowing only one run. (Photo by Diana Colapietro)

Gee minimized the damage in the first inning, allowing only one run. (Photo by Diana Colapietro)

“It took me a few batters that first inning to get under control,” Gee said. “I’m not going to lie, I had a little adrenaline going into this game. But I felt fine physically and that’s the goal.”

Gee’s second inning started with an error by Cyclones’ second baseman Anthony Chavez. Gee struck out the next batter but then gave up a single to Lopez before retiring the next two.

With 46 pitches through two innings, Gee returned for the top of the third and struck out both men he faced before being relieved by Josh Prevost. Of Gee’s 55 pitches, 36 went for strikes.

He said he would like to improve upon his fastball command in his next start, which the team will determine sometime after reevaluating him Monday to see how he feels.

“The change-up was pretty good, and the slider was actually pretty good,” Gee said. “The off-speed stuff was pretty good for the most part. I just have to get ahead of hitters better. No matter which level you’re at, you have to pitch ahead.”

At age 21, Gee was a member of the 2007 Brooklyn Cyclones. He was mostly a reliever until being called upon to make 11 starts later in the season. He finished that campaign 3-1 with a 2.28 ERA as a starter.

“It’s pretty special this being the place that I started,” he said. “It’s changed so much. It’s a great place to play, it’s a great place to start your pro career, and to come back and make a rehab start here was a lot of fun. It’s good to come back to the place where you start your career.”

Gee is the first Cyclone to be named an Opening Day starter for the Mets. His outing Sunday was the 19th time in Cyclones’ franchise history that a Met played a rehab game in Brooklyn. Gee also became the second player to play for the Cyclones as a minor leaguer and Major Leaguer, joining Angel Pagan who played on the inaugural Cyclones team in 2001 and then with Brooklyn in a rehab game in 2008.

The game remained 1-0 until the top of the sixth inning when the Yankees tagged Brooklyn righty Corey Oswalt – who had been working on a 13.0-inning scoreless streak through his first two starts – for four runs as they batted around in the frame.

But the Cyclones immediately responded in the bottom of the inning by batting around themselves and plating four runs.

With the bases loaded and none out, third baseman Jhoan Ureña drove in the first run on what would have been an RBI ground out, but Yankees’ pitcher David Palladino dropped the ball covering the bag. Michael Bernal, Tyler Moore and Jeff Diehl each followed with RBI’s.

In the final three innings, the Cyclones only managed two hits against the Yankees’ bullpen and struck out five times. They wound up getting the tying and winning run in scoring position with two outs in the ninth, but catcher Tomas Nido went down swinging to end the threat.

On a positive note, Brooklyn reliever Scarlyn Reyes continues to shine as he threw 3.1 innings of hitless relief.

Meanwhile, Ureña doubled to left field in the first inning to increase his hitting streak to 10 games, becoming only the second Cyclone teenager (19 years old) to have a double-digit hitting streak joining outfielder Alhaji Turay who hit in 12 straight games in 2012.

The Cyclones have Monday off and open a three-game series with the Hudson Valley Renegades, the Single-A short season affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays, Tuesday upstate. Lefty Alberto Baldonado will bid for his first win of the season in the 7:05 p.m. start.

Click here to view the complete box score of this game.

Gee addresses the media after his start. (Photo by Jim Mancari)

Gee addresses the media after his start. (Photo by Jim Mancari)

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Cyclones Drop 1-0 Contest In 10 Innings Tue, 24 Jun 2014 14:00:51 +0000 Tom Gamboa (Photo by Jim Mancari)

Tom Gamboa (Photo by Jim Mancari)

BROOKLYN, N.Y. – Of course, the old saying in baseball that pitching and defense win games more often than not holds true.

But unfortunately that was not the case Monday night at MCU Park in Coney Island for the Brooklyn Cyclones (8-3), who dropped a 1-0 contest in 10 innings to the Hudson Valley Renegades, the Single-A short season affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays.

The Cyclones – who had won six straight games coming into this game – pitched and fielded well but failed to get a runner to second base all night. Pitching and defense may win games, but you still have to score.

“When we don’t get a guy to second base, we don’t have much of an opportunity to get a run,” said Cyclones’ manager Tom Gamboa.

But Gamboa was still pleased with the team’s overall effort.

“That was fun to be a part of and fun to watch,” he said. “I had a feeling after two innings with the wind blowing in and watching both guys pitch, I told my coaches that this looks like it’s going to be a 1-0 game that probably goes extra innings. And it did. I wish the outcome would have been different, but I admire a well-pitched game.”

Right-hander Corey Oswalt followed up his six-scoreless-inning performance from last week with seven scoreless innings, giving up only three hits and one walk while striking out six in a no-decision. He’s started his stint in Brooklyn with 13.0 scoreless innings.

“I felt good in the pen, and I had the same game plan the second time I was facing this team,” Oswalt said. “I just stuck with the same game plan and attacked the hitters.”

Oswalt’s performance continues the Cyclones’ recent string of dominant starting pitching.

Through 11 games, Brooklyn starting pitchers have allowed more than two runs only once

In 60.2 innings, the starters have allowed just nine runs for a combined 1.35 ERA.

Oswalt said it’s become a friendly competition among the starting pitchers as who can out-do the previous night’s starting pitcher.

“There’s always competition, but it’s good when everyone is competing out there and it just only makes the team better,” the San Diego native said.

But on the opposing side, righty Hunter Wood turned in six scoreless innings himself for the Renegades, striking out five and walking only one.

The game was scoreless until the top of the 10th inning. Cyclones’ reliever Scarlyn Reyes, who has been baffling hitters in his previous two innings of work – gave up a two-out swinging-bunt infield single to Renegades’ designated hitter Coty Blanchard.

Blanchard then stole second base on a throw that Cyclones’ catcher Tomas Nido double-clutched. The next batter was center fielder Clayton Henning, who doubled to left center to drive in the only run of the game.

Cyclones’ shortstop Amed Rosario finished 2-for-4 with two singles to right field for two of the Cyclones four hits in the loss.

“What I told the guys is that we’re never going to lose, but some nights we’ll run out of innings, and tonight was one of those cases,” Gamboa said.

Brooklyn is right back in action Tuesday night in Hudson Valley for a 6:05 p.m. start. Tall lefty Alberto Baldonado, who tossed 5.2 innings of one run ball in his first start last week, takes the mound.

Click here to view the complete box score from this game.

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Corey Oswalt’s 8 K’s Pace Cyclones In Series Opening Win Wed, 18 Jun 2014 13:00:52 +0000 Corey Oswalt recorded a career-high eight strikeouts in the Cyclones' win Tuesday night. (Photo by Jim Mancari)

Corey Oswalt recorded a career-high eight strikeouts in the Cyclones’ win Tuesday night. (Photo by Jim Mancari

BROOKLYN, N.Y. – Talk about a complete 360-degree turnaround.

Just one night after an embarrassing loss, the Brooklyn Cyclones (3-2) excelled in all facets of the game Tuesday night at MCU Park in Coney Island, as they notched a 5-1 victory over the Hudson Valley Renegades, the Single-A short season affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays.

San Diego native Corey Oswalt made his first start for Brooklyn, and the 6-foot, 4-inch righty looked a whole lot like Roy Oswalt, as he tallied a career-high eight strikeouts in six scoreless innings while walking none and only giving up three hits to pick up the win.

“Oswalt is an all-the-time strike-thrower,” Cyclones manager Tom Gamboa said. “He’s got as good or better command of all of his pitches than anybody here at this point. But stuff-wise, I never saw him pitch like that in Florida. He really pitched well and set a great tone.”

Oswalt missed the majority of last season with a lateral meniscus tear in his right knee, so he was pleased to turn in a solid effort.

“I felt really good,” said Oswalt, whose ball had plenty of late movement that induced a ton of swings and misses. “I was just really mentally prepared for my start. I just trusted the game plan that I had going into it and trusted what my catcher was putting down.”

The Cyclones struck offensively in the bottom of the first inning on a two-run triple to right center by first baseman and College of William and Mary product Michael Katz. Catcher Tomas Nido drove in Katz on a groundout to give Brooklyn an early 3-0 lead.

From there, Oswalt was cruising, retiring 10 straight batters from the first through fourth innings.

Joe Tuschak has been swinging a hot bat, including a home run Tuesday night. (Photo by Jim Mancari)

Joe Tuschak has been swinging a hot bat, including a home run Tuesday night. (Photo by Jim Mancari)

Left fielder Joe Tuschak, who was the only bright spot in Monday’s loss after a 3-for-4 performance, hit the first home run for any Cyclone this season in the bottom of the fourth to add to the lead. He turned on an inside fastball, and it just cleared the wall down the right field line. Hitting a ball out to right field at MCU Park is no easy task, so Tuschak was excited that the ball cleared the fence.

“I honestly didn’t think it was gone,” said Tuschak, who also drove in a run in the eighth inning on a sacrifice fly. “I thought it just hit off the wall and took off to the left, so I was trying to a get a triple. Then they said it was out, and I was very surprised and very happy.”

Right-handed reliever Scarlyn Reyes pitched the final three innings to pick up the save. The native of Bayaguana, Dominican Republic, gave up an unearned run and struck out four over the final three frames.

“All in all, there were a lot of good things that happened for us tonight,” Gamboa said. “That’s good because it’s a confidence builder for the kids, especially coming off an ugly game last night.”

The Cyclones start a five-game road trip Wednesday as they head to Hudson Valley for two and then to Aberdeen to play the Ironbirds for three.

Lefty flame-thrower Alberto Baldonado gets the ball for Brooklyn Wednesday at 6:05 p.m. In 29.2 innings for Kingsport last year, he struck out 41 batters, which translates to a 12.4 K/9 ratio.

Click here to view the complete box score from this game.

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Defensive Miscues, Walks Haunt Cyclones In Loss Tue, 17 Jun 2014 13:00:11 +0000 Cyclones righty Gaither Bumgardner was the tough luck loser Monday night. (Photo by Jim Mancari)

Cyclones righty Gaither Bumgardner was the tough luck loser Monday night. (Photo by Jim Mancari)

BROOKLYN, N.Y. – It’s never a good sign when a baseball team has more errors than runs scored.

That was the case Monday night for the Brooklyn Cyclones (2-2), who dropped a 7-2 contest to the Staten Island Yankees at MCU Park in Coney Island – which evened the opening four-game series at two games apiece.

The Cyclones committed four errors and only managed two runs in the loss. In addition to shoddy defense, the team struck out 11 times – six looking – walked nine opposing hitters and even balked in a run. All in all, it was a game that manager Tom Gamboa hopes the team will put in its rearview mirror immediately.

“This was a typical rookie league game,” he said. “That’s all I can say about it.”

Only two of the Yankees’ seven runs were actually recorded as runs batted in – a bases-loaded walk and an RBI groundout – and only three of the seven runs were earned. The Yankees also wound up with more runs (seven) than hits (six).

Lefty Carlos Valdez, who was 2-2 with a 2.58 ERA in nine starts last season for Brooklyn, started the game and lasted four innings. He surrendered two runs but walked six batters, which ultimately led to his early exit.

“Carlos Valdez had real good stuff,” Gamboa said. “They didn’t hit him, but he was a victim of himself.”

Down 2-0, the Cyclones scored a run each in the second and third innings to tie the game. Designated hitter Tomas Nido scored on a fielder’s choice error in the second, and shortstop Amed Rosario plated left fielder Joe Tuschak – who finished 3-for-4 on the night – on a sacrifice fly in the third.

Right-hander Gaither Bumgardner relieved Valdez and pitched better than his numbers show. He gave up four runs in four innings, but they were all unearned as the Cyclones committed three errors behind him.

“I really thought Gaither Bumgardner pitched well tonight,” Gamboa said. “It’s a shame he took the loss, but he was victimized by our own defense. We shot ourselves in the foot with the three errors we made in the two innings.”

Two of those three errors were committed by right fielder Michael Bernal. He misplayed a scorching line drive that plated two runs and then bobbled a ball on a single, which allowed another run to score.

“There’s no question he (Bernal) had a tough night tonight,” Gamboa said.

Through four games, the Cyclones have now committed nine errors. The team ranked second in the New York-Penn League last year in fielding percentage, so Gamboa hopes his team’s defense will improve.

“The guys are trying,” Gamboa said. “They’re young, and they’re going to make mistakes. We hope that we can come back tomorrow and clean a lot of this stuff up in practice and play better tomorrow night.”

The Cyclones can put this tough loss behind them right away as they’ll host the Hudson Valley Renegades, the Single-A short season affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays, Tuesday night at 7 p.m.

Click here to view the complete box score of this game.

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Cyclones Dominate On Opening Day Sun, 15 Jun 2014 13:00:05 +0000 The Cyclones picked up the win on Opening Day. (Photo by Jim Mancari)

The Cyclones picked up the win on Opening Day. (Photo by Jim Mancari)

BROOKLYN, N.Y. – During an afternoon when the parent club New York Mets only managed two hits in a 5-0 loss to the San Diego Padres – the seventh time they’ve been shutout this season – the Brooklyn Cyclones clubbed nine hits in an Opening Day 8-2 victory over the Staten Island Yankees Saturday at MCU Park in Coney Island.

The original Opening Day was rained out Friday night in Staten Island, so the Cyclones were able to treat 8,175 fans – nearly 700 more than the stadium’s 7,501 seating capacity – to a win in the opener. Brooklyn is now 11-3 all-time on Opening Day and 7-1 since 2007.

“I was pleasantly surprised with how good the guys handled it (the atmosphere),” said Cyclones’ manager Tom Gamboa, who is the 10th manager in franchise history.

The Cyclones were all smiles on Opening Day. (Photo by Jim Mancari)

The Cyclones were all smiles on Opening Day. (Photo by Jim Mancari)

The Cyclones wasted very little time before providing some offensive punch. With one out in the bottom of the second inning, right fielder Michael Bernal hit an RBI double over the third base bag, and left fielder Joe Tuschak followed with an RBI double of his own to right field to give Brooklyn a 2-0 lead.

The team scored two more runs in the bottom of the third, when catcher Tomas Nido – who struggled offensively in Brooklyn last year to the tune of a .185 batting average – drove a two-strike, two-RBI triple to right center field.

“The first two pitches I swung at weren’t good pitches, but then he (Yankees’ starting pitcher David Palladino) went with a fastball up in the zone,” said the 20-year-old backstop. “I put a good swing on it, and I helped the team get a couple of runs.”

The theme of two runs per inning continued for the Cyclones in the bottom of the fourth, as 18-year-old shortstop Amed Rosario drove in a run on a groundout prior to a run scoring on a wild pitch.

Leading 6-0, it was almost a given that Cyclones’ starter Octavio Acosta, a righty from Sinola, Mexico, would be able to complete the fifth inning to qualify for the win. The start made Acosta the oldest Opening Day starting pitcher in Cyclones’ history at 24 years, three months and four days. This is his fifth season in the Mets organization and he struck out a career-high 50 batters in 52.2 innings last year split between Gulf Coast and St. Lucie.

Acosta, who finished with seven strikeouts, had very little trouble through the first four innings but labored in the fifth. He recorded two outs in the frame but hit Yankees’ right fielder Austin Aune with the bases loaded to plate a run.

Cyclones’ righty reliever Brandon Welch entered the game in a huge jam with the bases still loaded, but he was able to induce a fly ball out to end the threat – though a routine play was turned into an adventure, as Tuschak was forced to make a diving catch after a miscommunication between him and center fielder Tucker Tharp.

“It was a little scary, but I was just happy he (Tuschak) caught it,” said Welch, who has only appeared in seven games the past two seasons. “It’s fun to pitch in situations like that. It just gives you momentum; it gets your adrenaline pumping more and more.”

Tomas Nido (Photo by Jim Mancari)

Tomas Nido (Photo by Jim Mancari)

Brooklyn was back at it offensively in the bottom of the seventh. Third baseman Jhoan Ureña blooped an RBI double to right, and he later scored on a passed ball.

Welch turned in 2.1 innings of scoreless relief to pick up the victory after allowing no hits and two walks. Lefty Shane Bay came on for the final two innings, and he gave up a run on three hits.

Ureña finished the day 2-for-3 with an RBI and a walk, while Nido was also 2-for-3 with two RBI and a walk on the day.

“All in all, a lot of good things did happen tonight,” Gamboa said. “It’s always nice to open with a win in front of the home crowd. From the fans’ standpoint, I think they got what they came to see tonight.”

The Cyclones will play a doubleheader Sunday in Staten Island. Game 1 of the twin bill starts at 4 p.m., and tall right-hander Casey Meisner will take the mound for Brooklyn.

Click here to view the complete box score from this game.

MarissaAnn from Season 2 of "The Voice: sung the National Anthem. (Photo by Jim Mancari)

MarissaAnn from Season 2 of “The Voice: sung the National Anthem. (Photo by Jim Mancari)

]]> 0 Excitement Building for Cyclones Opening Day Sat, 14 Jun 2014 14:34:36 +0000 Tom Gamboa (Photo by Jim Mancari)

Tom Gamboa (Photo by Jim Mancari)

Each summer in Brooklyn, fans turn out in droves to watch their favorite Brooklyn Cyclones play the game they love.

For the past few seasons at least, the summer schedule has coincided with the struggles of the parent team, so again this summer, the hype for the Cyclones seems to be through the roof.

Last night, the Cyclones were supposed to open on the road against New York-Penn League rivals, the Staten Island Yankees. But the game was rained out, meaning tonight will be opening night at MCU Park in Coney Island.

With a crowd near the 7,500 capacity expected. The players are certainly excited to play in front of this type of crowd.

Casey Meisner (Photo by Jim Mancari)

Casey Meisner (Photo by Jim Mancari)

“The crowd’s going to be crazy,” said starting Casey Meisner, a 6-foot, 7-inch right-hander from Cypress, Texas, who was supposed to start the home opener but will be pushed back in favor of Friday’s probable, righty Octavio Acosta. “I was in GCL (Gulf Coast League), the lowest level in the minor leagues for the Mets, and there’s no fans. There’s nothing there. Seeing and playing in this big stadium and talking about the crowd, I’m just going to try to block it all out and try to focus to pitch.”

“It’s great,” said righty Josh Prevost, a Seton Hall University product who grew up a Mets fan in Belle Mead, N.J. “You’re in the city; a lot of people are going to be at the games. A lot of people that go to the Mets games are going to be here as well. Hopefully I put on a good show.”

“It’s a complete big league environment,” said new Cyclones manager Tom Gamboa. “The only difference is that there are 7,500 seats instead of 40,000. It’s going to raise their intensity level, and we’re looking forward to getting started.”

The Cyclones usually draw among the highest number of fans for a minor league team in the country, so Gamboa said that playing in front of this many fans at this early stage of their careers could only be beneficial to the young players.

“A real perk as I mentioned to these guys is that they’re getting a chance early in their career to play in front of a lot of fans, which will help them someday ease the transition when they get to the big leagues,” Gamboa said. “When guys get to Double- or Triple-A in that environment, particularly when fans are not with you or at home if you’re not doing well, it helps to toughen a guy’s skin up as a big leaguer.”

Josh Prevost (Photo by Jim Mancari)

Josh Prevost (Photo by Jim Mancari)

The big leagues are still very far off for these players, some of whom will be getting their first experience this summer in professional baseball. Still, Gamboa said he is excited to see how thrilled the players will be to open the season.

“Except for a couple of the college kids, the rest of them have never played in front of crowds like this before,” Gamboa said. “They wouldn’t be human if they didn’t go through a little stage fright. I jokingly refer to that as the sphincter factor.

“I knowingly do that to make guys laugh to try to take the pressure off them to make them realize the sooner that they can get through that, the sooner that they can focus on the task at hand instead of being aware of everything that’s going on around them, the sooner that their true skills will come out. You have to be relaxed and focused to play this game. You can’t worry about outside elements.”

The nerves may be there tonight and there will undoubtedly be plenty of mistakes, but the excitement of playing pro ball in Brooklyn has these players salivating to get out on that field.

“Now that we’re here, the best part is yet to come,” Gamboa said. “Playing in this environment every day is going to be a lot of fun for the players and for the coaches.”

First pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m., and an opening night fireworks display will follow the game. The Cyclones are hoping to provide their own fireworks on the field to start their season off on the right foot.

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