By Rich Coutinho
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Mike Pelfrey has always been an enigma to the New York Mets because he has always possessed great stuff, but has had a hard time getting the consistency that all winning pitchers need. In the years that I have covered the Mets, I have gotten to know Pelfrey very well and I must say I see a big change in his body language when he takes the mound.
First of all, his pace is so much quicker and that has both helped him get through innings and at the same time, keep the fielders behind him alert and ready. “Very early in spring training Dan Warthen and I talked extensively about my pace in games”, says Pelfrey,”and what we found out is a quicker pace helps my rhythm in games and as a consequence, helps me learn to trust my stuff.” In his last 2 starts, Pelfrey’s pace has quickened and it has helped him wiggle out of jams.
In 19.2 innings, Pelfrey sports a 2.20 ERA but more importantly, he has only walked four batters in 19.2 innings of work while striking out 13 hitters. Granted this is a small sample but it represents what Mike Pelfrey can do when he features a sinking fastball with a splitter and sprinkles in some curve balls which have helped him change the eye level of batters. He also gives a ton of credit to Josh Thole whom he says is really developing into a fine defensive catcher.”Thole calls a great game”, says Pelfrey,”and I rarely shake him off. I really think he and I are on the same page and any success I am having is because of his work behind the plate.”
We all heard the cries of Mets fans during spring training as the tweeters were pretty adamant about their disdain for Pelfrey. One media member even suggested that the team was shopping Pelfrey — a rumor I found out was simply not true. But through it all, Pelfrey never doubted himself and although the Mets were concerned about him, they always felt he was a big part of their plans. After all, this is a guy who has won 15 games as a Met and he has great stuff. Plus, he has proven to be a very durable pitcher as well.
Quite frankly, this Mets rotation is filled with pitchers people have doubted. Johan was too hurt, Gee did not throw hard enough, Niese was too inconsistent, and how could you rely on a knuckleballer? And Pelfrey was just a head case. Well, Met fans I have news for you — this quintet of pitchers is very determined to prove all the doubters wrong. And 14 games into the season, they have proven they are serious about that.
Now, there is an eternity left in this season but consider this: The Mets are 8-6 in their first 14 games and last year they started out 4-10 in their first 14 . And the biggest reason they are 2 games over .500 is because this rotation has been solid. If they continue to be, The Mets might have a long summer of proving all of those critics wrong.