When you glance at this morning’s Mets pitching leaders, you see two names that belong in Matt Harvey and Bobby Parnell. Each of them have been nothing short of phenomenal in their roles of closer and staff ace. But just below them is a name nobody expected much from this season – that is unless you read my preseason feature on Scott Rice – the 31-year old rookie who has become a cult figure here on MMO.
The left-handed reliever has performed at a level unseen by a southpaw since Perpetual Pedro was in his prime during the Omar Minaya legacy.
Rice has been a Godsend in the bullpen both for his effectiveness and reliability, but more than that he’s been the bullpen’s most durable reliever, leading the team with 16 appearances and 14.2 innings pitched. For a Mets bullpen that is ranked 29th in the majors with a 5.09 ERA, Rice along with Parnell have given the team their all and have been the most steadfast performers in an otherwise ill-performing bullpen.
Gone already are Greg Burke, Josh Edgin and Aaron Laffey. Brandon Lyon and Robert Carson may soon be the next to go. Jeurys Familia who I felt earned a job out of Spring Training, is finally here and so far the early results have been encouraging.
But getting back to Rice, Mike Kerwick of The Record had a great profile of him this morning on NJ.com. He goes back to his formative years and gives some more backstory to what has already been one of the better storylines to this Mets season.
“He’s been terrific,” said Mets manager Terry Collins. “Extremely durable. When you talk to him, this is what he’s been waiting for his whole life, this opportunity.”
Kerwick shares a fascinating story about Rice that only furthers my respect for this unique player who toiled in the minors for 14 years before finally making his major league debut this season with the Mets. Most players would have quit and hung up their spikes after eight or nine years, but Rice remained determined and set on making it to the majors against all odds.
Rice bounced around – five major league organizations, 18 minor league teams – before he finally caught on with the Mets last month. He threw his first major league pitch on April 1, almost 14 years after he was drafted.
In the darkest moments of those 14 years, Rice would place calls to his father. Dennis knew a thing or two about watching a baseball dream implode. Rice’s father blew out his shoulder years ago, back when he was a middle infielder for the University of Southern California.
“He’s the main reason why I kept playing,” Rice said. “At times I hated it. But he kept pushing me, telling me, ‘Hey, you’ve got to get out there, you’ve got to keep doing this, you’ve got to keep doing that. You’ve got to make these phone calls to teams.’
Rice was very instrumental in the 7-6 win against the Marlins that put an end to the team’s six-game losing streak, the longest such streak in two seasons.
With the Mets barely holding on to their one-run lead, Collins turned to Rice to get a critical out with the tying run on third in the eighth inning. Rice came in and induced an inning-ending grounder from the pesky leadoff hitter, Juan Pierre. Once again, Rice rose to the occasion without breaking a sweat.
“He’s been very, very good,” Collins said. “He realizes when he keeps the ball down and throws strikes, he gets ground balls. So far we’ve caught them.”
There haven’t been too many great bright spots to the Mets’ season thus far, but Scott Rice is certainly one of them, and it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.