Rotation Looks Up to Big Pelf for Answers

February 23, 2009

07mets-75

Up until now, the Mets starting rotation has not been viewed as a cause for concern, yet when you take a closer look, you can see a few uncertainties here and there. Two of its pitchers are coming into spring training fresh off of post-season surgery. A third pitcher remains inconsistent on the mound, while one of the possible contenders for the role of fifth starter has recently been sidelined with a sore shoulder. It’s safe to say that the Mets organization has a lot on their plate to digest as they approach the start of the 2009 season.

Fortunately, for the team, they have a formidable starter in 25-year-old Mike Pelfrey. Last season, Pelfrey had what some critics consider a year in which he came into his own. He won 13 games, completed 200.2 innings pitched, and finished with a 3.72 ERA.

“Last year was just the tip of the iceberg,” said the confident right-hander.

During a previous interview with WFAN’s Steve Somers, Pelfrey alluded to a game in late May of 2008 against the Los Angeles Dodgers in which he felt “enough was enough.”

“I was going to throw strikes,” Pelfrey said. “My confidence took over. I knew that I belonged. All I had to do was hit my spots and execute my pitches.” Since then, he’s never looked back.

At this time last year, Pelfey was fighting for a spot on the opening day roster. However, this season, he has already earned his right as the Mets’ number two starter. Pelfrey mentioned that not having to compete for a starting job took some of the pressure off but stated that he still has much to improve on.

Speaking about this year’s spring training, Pelfrey said, “It will be more of a working environment. The first thing is to establish my fastball command and be able to locate both sides of the plate.”

Pleased with Pelrey’s attitude, the coaching staff has shown much appreciation for the young right-hander’s maturity and discipline upon taking the mound. However, Mets Manager Jerry Manuel and Pitching Coach Dan Warthen must also consider Pelfrey’s durability heading into this season as he noticeably began to struggle towards the end of 2008. In 17 starts from June to late August last season, the right-hander made great strides as he won eleven of those starts on just two losses. Unfortunately, in his five September outings when the Mets needed him most, Pelfrey had a disappointing 0-3 record in which he surrendered 14 earned runs and 31 hits in 33 innings pitched.

Pelfrey seems to approach his task of having to pitch every fifth day with a grain of salt. “I like to look at every game like it’s just another game,” he said. “I just try to stay aggressive and not leave the ball up in the strike zone.”

Looking forward to this up-coming season, Pelfrey’s goals are to continue to throw strikes, work on his off-speed pitches, and obviously get better.

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