PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. (AP) — Chris Capuano is showing that he’s a quick study under the tutelage of Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax.
In his spring training debut, the newly acquired left-hander worked three innings and gave up one run on three hits Sunday in the New York Mets’ 7-1 win over the University of Michigan at Digital Domain Park.
Koufax, who worked with Capuano a week ago, sat a few rows behind home plate with Mets owner Fred Wilpon during Capuano’s start. The Dodgers great watched the 32-year-old former Milwaukee pitcher turn in three strong innings.
“He’s pretty astute and a good observer. It’s pretty special,” said Capuano, who threw 31 of his 37 pitches for strikes. “I just try to take advantage of him while he’s here.”
Michigan managed three doubles — all down the lines — in producing a lone run in the second inning. The run-scoring hit was a change-up that Capuano left up in the strike zone.
Capuano, fully recovered from his second Tommy John surgery, is considered the favorite to land the fifth starting spot in New York’s rotation. Dillon Gee, Jenrry Mejia, D.J. Carrasco and Oliver Perez are also contenders.
“Whether you have a spot or are battling for a spot, the only thing I’d say is different is if you’re really fighting for a spot, you might come in to spring a little sharper, a little closer to game-ready,” Capuano said.
Gee logged 2 1-3 hitless innings and fanned four, allowing just one walk.
Gee has also had his share of injuries. Less than two years ago, the right-hander from Texas was shut down for the season with a torn labrum. Surgery wasn’t necessary, but the problem didn’t heal until he put in long hours of rehab at the minor-league complex.
“The rehab was almost a blessing,” Gee said. “Because I couldn’t throw, I just had to focus on what was going to make me get better. I knew after being hurt for so long I wasn’t going to have the velocity I had, but it’s almost back.
“The time down here gave me time to focus on the mental side of the game and really strengthen that part. It’s a grind. It’s tough when you’re doing rehab every day and watching other people play baseball for seven to nine months.”
Added Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen of Gee: “He’s come on nicely. He’s a working man’s pitcher, a blue-collar guy. He has a better-than-average change-up and moves the ball around.
“He put up some very good numbers last year against teams in contention,” Warthen said. “They weren’t games just to finish the season.”
NOTES: OF Jason Bay produced a two-run single in the third inning after 3B David Wright’s groundout tied it at 1-1. … OF Cody Holliday slugged a two-run homer in a four-run seventh inning. … OF Jason Pridie and SS Wilfredo Tovar had two hits each for the Mets. … New York hosts the Washington Nationals and prized No. 1 pick Bryce Harper on Monday. RHP Mike Pelfrey will face Nationals RHP Chad Gaudin.