Mets Merized Online » Jim Mancari Mon, 16 Jan 2017 02:08:18 +0000 en-US hourly 1 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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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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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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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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Edgardo Alfonzo Excited About Cyclones Infield Fri, 13 Jun 2014 16:08:29 +0000 Cyclones manager Tom Gamboa and Edgardo Alfonzo (Photo by Jim Mancari)

Cyclones manager Tom Gamboa and Edgardo Alfonzo (Photo by Jim Mancari)

Former Met great Edgardo Alfonzo helped out the past few days as a special instructor for the Brooklyn Cyclones, who open their season tonight on the road against the Staten Island Yankees.

Alfonzo brings years of offensive and defensive expertise to these young players trying to get their feet wet in the big leagues. He said being around the team has caused him to remember his early days in the Mets organization.

“They’re big now,” Alfonzo said of the current players. “Here is better than Pittsfield (where he played Single-A ball). To come and see these young guys definitely reminds me of when I started with the Mets. Now that I’m retired and now a coach, it’s a great feeling to be with the kids and see the talent. I’m so happy to be back.”

Alfonzo was sure to instruct the infielders on baseball techniques, but he also said that he made it a point to stress the mental side of the game. Many of the players have the talent, but it’s just a matter of using that talent to their advantage, he said.

Amed Rosario (Photo by Jim Mancari)

Amed Rosario (Photo by Jim Mancari)

Speaking of talent, Alfonzo is very excited about the left side of the Cyclones’ infield: 18-year-old shortstop and No. 7 rated Mets prospect Amed Rosario and switch-hitting 19-year-old third baseman Jhoan Urena.

These two have quickly become best friends, and that chemistry should translate well on the field.

“They’re (Rosario and Urena) going to be good,” Alfonzo said. “We have a lot of potential guys here. They like to ask questions. I’m open to any of those guys who come with questions and try to give the right answer to them.”

Jhoan Urena (Photo by Jim Mancari)

Jhoan Urena (Photo by Jim Mancari)

Cyclones’ new manager Tom Gamboa echoed Alfonzo’s statements.

“He’s (Rosario) a five-tool player at shortstop and very exciting to watch,” Gamboa said. “I think the people are going to fall in love with him. It’s kind of ironic that his favorite player is Hanley Ramirez because by the time he’s 21 or 22, that’s probably the type of player that his skillset is going to be.”

That would be a great find for the Mets if the next Hanley Ramirez is currently in the system.

Gamboa said Urena has looked good in all the facets of the game as well. Judging by the opening workout, that left side of the infield has the potential to turn in highlight-reel plays each night and provide a spark offensively.

The Cyclones will open their season at home Saturday at 6 p.m., as tall righty Casey Meisner gets the start for Brooklyn.

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Brooklyn Cyclones Coverage This Summer (With Roster) Thu, 12 Jun 2014 15:47:41 +0000 MCU Park

The Brooklyn Cyclones, the Single-A short season affiliate of the Mets, open their season Friday night, with the team’s home opener scheduled for Saturday evening.

Just like last summer, I will be covering the team as the beat reporter for Mets Merized Online.

Last year, the Cyclones’ pitching staff raised a few eyebrows, with the starters amassing a combined 2.67 ERA.

The team’s hitting was a bit inconsistent, but that’s usually expected given that the young players are just getting their feet wet in minor league baseball.

Former big league coach Tom Gamboa will take over for Rich Donnelly as the team’s manager. Gamboa has over 40 years of coaching experience. He’s likely best know for an unfortunate incident in 2002, when he was attacked on the field by two fans while coaching first base for the Kansas City Royals.

Mets’ first-round draft pick Michael Conforto has yet to sign, but if he does soon, there’s a possibility he would begin at Brooklyn, in which case I’d provide the constant updates about the new first-rounder.

On the Mets current roster, Daniel Murphy, Jenrry Mejia, Lucas Duda, Wilmer Flores and Eric Campbell were all once Cyclones, as well as injured Mets Dillon Gee, Juan Lagares and Bobby Parnell.

With an organization that is very reliant on its future success, the stepping stones for the next crop of Mets prospects will be laid down this summer in Brooklyn, and I’ll be sure to provide all the insights, as well as game recaps and occasional features, straight from MCU Park in Coney Island.

Here is the team’s preliminary roster (subject to change). Of note, shortstop Amed Rosario, the team’s No. 7 prospect, will be a Cyclone this summer. Right-hander Octavio Acosta has been tabbed the Opening Day starter.

Catchers »
# Name Position Bats Throws Height Weight
2 ABREU, Adrian C R R 6′ 0″ 185 lbs
7 NIDO, Tomas C R R 6′ 0″ 200 lbs
15 MOORE, Tyler C L R 6′ 2″ 213 lbs
26 ARRIZURIETA, Luis C R R 5′ 8″ 160 lbs
Infielders »
# Name Position Bats Throws Height Weight
1 ROSARIO, Amed IF R R 6′ 2″ 170 lbs
3 CHAVEZ, Anthony IF R R 6′ 2″ 185 lbs
13 URENA, Jhoan IF S R 6′ 1″ 190 lbs
22 PONCE, Dimas IF R R 5′ 11″ 165 lbs
24 DIEHL, Jeff 1B R R 6′ 4″ 195 lbs
Outfielders »
# Name Position Bats Throws Height Weight
5 THARP, Tucker OF R R 5′ 10″ 195 lbs
9 TUSHCAK, Joe OF L R 6′ 0″ 185 lbs
27 BERNAL, Michael OF R R 6′ 1″ 195 lbs
Pitchers »
# Name Position Bats Throws Height Weight
10 OSWALT, Corey P R R 6′ 4″ 200 lbs
11 URBINA, Juan P R R 6′ 1″ 170 lbs
12 MEISNER, Casey P R R 6′ 7″ 190 lbs
17 REYES, Scarlyn P R R 6′ 3″ 190 lbs
21 WELCH, Brandon P R R 6′ 1″ 185 lbs
25 BAY, Shane P L L 6′ 2″ 225 lbs
28 BALDONADO, Alberto P L L 6′ 2″ 160 lbs
29 MOLINA, Marcos P R R 6′ 3″ 188 lbs
31 WIECK, Brad P L L 6′ 9″ 240 lbs
34 VILLASMIL, Edioglis P R R 6′ 2″ 164 lbs
35 ACOSTA, Octavio P R R 6′ 0″ 165 lbs
36 BUMGARDNER, Gaither P R R 6′ 6″ 210 lbs
40 HEPPLE, Mike P R R 6′ 6″ 210 lbs
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From Left Field: Sloppy Defensive Fundamentals Dooming Amazin’s Thu, 22 May 2014 14:04:02 +0000 Wilmer Flores (Photo by Jim Mancari)

Wilmer Flores (Photo by Jim Mancari)

I was sitting on the edge of my seat at Citi Field last night in the top of the eighth inning with one out and runners on the corners for the Dodgers.

The dangerous Hanley Ramirez was up with the Mets only down by one run. Boy did we need a double play in that spot.

Ramirez likely would have been tough to double up, except maybe if he wound up hitting a sharp comebacker right to Jeurys Familia on the mound.

To my surprise, he did. Right off the bat, I’m thinking, “Wow, what a huge double play in that spot!”

But Familia all of sudden double clutches, and I see two guys – Daniel Murphy and Wilmer Flores – both hovering around second base and in each other’s way.

Naturally, the Mets fail to turn the double play and allow an insurance run to score. As if the script was written prior to the game, the Mets only muster one run in the next two innings – meaning the fielder’s choice off the bat of Ramirez produced what was essentially the game-winning run.

And it’s all because the Mets have trouble with the fundamentals.

In recent memory, the Mets pretty much have been in every game they’ve played. Yet they’ve now lost three in a row and 14 of the last 19 games.

How many times is this team going to shoot itself in the foot by making mental mistakes?

A slow trickler out in front of the plate with two outs, and Anthony Recker and Carlos Torres can’t communicate to get an out at first, allowing a run to score. And that was after a wild pitch that allowed the runner to move from second to third.

Another huge double play situation the next night, and Jacob deGrom induces the dangerous Brian McCann to hit a sharp grounder. Murphy throws to David Wright covering second due to the shift, but Wright makes a weak and wide throw to first. Of course, Alfonso Soriano follows that with the only run-producing hit of the game.

We know this team is not going to score five-plus runs per game. But the starting pitching has been better than the team’s record shows.

I’ve written about it already this season that the Mets can’t rely on playing “perfect games” every single night. But what they have to do is make the plays they are supposed to make – especially in game-changing situations.

On the play last night, there’s two ways to look at it. With a right-handed hitter batting in Ramirez, maybe Murphy and Flores communicated that Murph would cover on a comebacker. But the traditional play is that the shortstop takes the throw, since his momentum is already carrying him towards first base to complete the double play. They were already positioned in double-play depth, so it’s not like Flores had far to go.

Sure, Familia should have just thrown it in the general area, and hopefully one of the middle infielders still would have had enough time to take the throw and complete the play. But still, it should have been clear who was covering the base before the play, and the other middle infielder should have then backed up the play.

“Shoulda, woulda, coulda” at this point – and sadly, this phrase has been used way too often this season.

So after another tough loss, I left Citi Field discouraged. The silver lining: deGrom has looked great through two starts.

But without offense and with routine defensive miscues, his starts – and all the pitchers’ starts – will come to naught.

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From Left Field: Smart Baseball Is Key For Mets Thu, 15 May 2014 13:45:31 +0000 Chris Young (Photo by Jim Mancari)

Chris Young (Photo by Jim Mancari)

We were riding high on Monday and Tuesday. The offense was clicking, especially with the long ball, and the defense made a few key plays to increase the Mets winning streak to six games over the Yankees.

But then last night happened.

Before I get long-winded, Masahiro Tanaka is looking like a bona fide ace. Though games are never over until they are played, it was a tall order to think last night that Rafael Montero in his first big league start could outduel a guy who hasn’t lost a regular season game – albeit the majority in Japan – in nearly two full years.

But here’s the thing as we dissect the game: There were a few boneheaded plays that wound up costing the Mets big time.

Let’s start with the top of the second inning with two outs and Brian Roberts at the dish. He lines one to left, and Eric Young Jr. dives for it and comes up empty, allowing the ball to go to the wall and Yangervis Solarte to score easily.

I will never knock a guy for giving 100 percent effort, and that’s what Young Jr. did in that spot. But you have to know the situation there.

We all learned in Little League that you have to know what you are going to do if the ball is hit to you. You also always have to know who is up next.

In this case, Tanaka was on deck, so a single there really wouldn’t have hurt the Mets that much. Sure, Tanaka got a hit later in the game, but you’d rather take your chances in facing Tanaka with two outs then surrender a cheap run.

Again, it was a great effort by Young Jr., but it’s all about knowing the game situation at hand. That’s a lot easier said than done, especially in the heat of the moment, but he has to play that ball on a hop.

So then we move on to the bottom of the fifth. The Mets were only down 2-0 at that point, and Chris Young led off the frame with a single.

Remember, earlier in the game Daniel Murphy swiped second base as the Yankees were meandering around. That was a great heads-up play but one that happens so rarely that you can’t expect it to happen again.

Young however thought he could leave early and catch the Yankees napping again. But catcher Brian McCann signaled to Tanaka, who stepped off and threw to Solarte for the easy out.

Young was visibly mad at himself when he got up, and he should have been. There’s no reason to be making the first out in that fashion. That’s giving away an out to an ace pitcher who is already dominating you – which is not exactly the recipe for success.

I can understand a bit where Young is coming from. With Lucas Duda batting, anything on the ground is an easy double play. But in that case, why not just try a straight steal rather than a leave early play? It’s not like McCann is Yadier Molina behind the plate.

This team cannot afford to be making mental mistakes. Physical errors happen, but mental mistakes can be controlled.

If Young Jr. plays that ball on a hop, the Yankees have a much less chance of scoring that inning. And if Young was not caught trying to steal, who knows how that inning would have gone?

It wasn’t a great night to have “Young” as your last name. These plays were crucial, and though they didn’t necessarily cost the Mets the entire game, every play counts in the grand scheme of a baseball game.

Especially at home – where runs for the Mets have come at a premium – playing smart baseball is essential.

Sure it’s fine to take a calculated risk every so often, like Murphy did. But this team cannot afford to give opponents extra bases on defense and gift outs on offense.

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From Left Field: Would You Sign Up For 16-17 At This Point? Thu, 08 May 2014 19:47:08 +0000 juan lagares

Today is a much-needed day off for our Mets, who are now 1-6 in their last seven games.

That skid puts the team at 16-17 overall and fourth place in an NL East division that’s shaping up to be quite competitive.

We knew that the first month’s schedule was going to be tough, including the opening series against the Nationals, the early nine-game West Coast road trip, and tough series against the Braves and Cardinals.

So if you would have told me that the Mets would be 16-17 at this point based on their schedule, would I have signed up for that? I guess I would.

But honestly, with the way they’ve been losing games recently, I am forced to reconsider that answer.

Not too long ago, the Mets were sitting pretty at 15-11. Sure, a tough series at Coors Field was on the horizon, but a split and then taking two out of three from the Marlins would have been a great way to start the second month of the season.

But that’s not how it unfolded.

You have to always pencil at least one blowout loss in Colorado, but to lose a game after being up 6-0 is unacceptable.

Then on to Miami, the starting pitching in the series was great, but the bullpen and offensive woes cost the team a chance at salvaging the road trip.

A few losses this season have been beyond gut-wrenching – from Opening Day, to bullpen blow-ups, to walk-off losses, especially via the hit-by-pitch.

So would I sign up for 16-17? If I did not watch a single pitch this past month, then yes, I would have signed up for that mark at this point, given the question marks surrounding the this team in Spring Training.

But after following closely this year, there’s no way I’m signing for that mark.

It’s nice that the team has been alive in the majority of its games, but they have to be able to close out opponents.

When they have a three-run lead early, the offense can’t just shut down. But if it does, the bullpen has to be able to pick up the slack.

The starting pitching has certainly been a bright spot, but how many Jon Niese or Dillon Gee no-decisions is this organization willing to put up with before a change is made?

What that change will be, I do not know.

It starts with Wilmer Flores getting a look at shortstop. And maybe the next step is promoting some of the young arms to play a role in the bullpen.

Whatever happens, there’s still plenty of season left. Yes, giving away games in April and May is tough to swallow, but blowing what hopefully will be meaningful games in August and September just won’t cut it.

16-17 isn’t the worst thing in the world at this point, but it’s the way they’ve lost the 17 that has been tough so far.

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