Granted, it’s only Spring Training, but baseball has more or less arrived. The New York Mets took on the Washington Nationals, which seems fitting as the two NL East teams will face-off a whopping eighteen times during the regular season. In what will hopefully be the first of few, the Nationals bested the Mets, 3-1.
Dillon Gee, who enjoyed a solid rookie campaign in 2011 (4.43 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, and 1.61 K/BB in 160.6 IP) got the “Opening Spring” nod for New York. The 25 year-old righty hurled two innings in his debut, surrendering two hits, one earned-run, one walk, and a strikeout. Gee is about a lock to be the fifth man in the Mets rotation, however, the pitcher who relieved him might have something to say about that come mid-season. Matt Harvey entered the game in the third inning, and did not allow a hit or run–despite walking three batters–over two innings of his own. Harvey is widely considered one of the best starting pitching prospects in baseball, but will likely start the season in either Double-A or Triple-A.
Fans also got a taste of new closer (and free agent signee) Frank Francisco. Francisco spent 2011 with the Toronto Blue Jays after nearly seven seasons with the Texas Rangers. The 32 year-old is known for his blazing fastball, and three pitch-repertoire (including a curveball and splitter), but also apparently walks and has the same mound presence as former Mets closer Armando Benitez. Apparently the two past and present relievers are good friends. Francisco gave-up an earned-run and two hits, and was saddled with the game’s loss. Danny Herrera, Tim Byrdak, and Miguel Batista finished off the final four innings of the game, with the first two throwing-up zeros, while Batista handed the Nationals their third run of the night.
On the hitting side of things, the Mets bats were relatively quiet. Despite collecting eight hits–matching the Nationals–they (Andres Torres) only crossed home once thanks to a RBI-single by Daniel Murphy. A number of prospective regular season starters were in the lineup tonight, including Andres Torres, Daniel Murphy, Ike Davis, Jason Bay, Lucas Duda, Josh Thole, and Ruben Tejada. Fans also got a peek at top prospects “Captain” Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Jordany Valdespin, as well as bench hopefuls Josh Satin, Mike Baxter, and Adam Loewen. The only notable Mets missing from action was David Wright, who was sidelined due to a rib cage injury. Wright is expected to miss
Even though the season ahead might appear lowly, it was exhilarating to actually see real baseball on television again, and watch a mixture of old, new, and strange faces donning orange and blue. The Mets will be playing two split quad games tomorrow. The first will take place at 1:05 PM against the Houston Astros with Chris Schwinden starting. The second game will be at 1:10 PM against the St. Louis Cardinals with none other than Johan Santana taking the hill. Santana has not pitched for the Mets since September 2, 2010.