The Braves traveled to Port St. Lucie this afternoon with all three of their heralded outfielders (Justin Upton, B.J. Upton, and Jason Heyward) in tow. Tim Hudson got the start for Atlanta, and was opposed by Jeremy Hefner. Justin Upton opened the scoring in the bottom of the first with a solo homer to left. The Mets fought back in the bottom of the inning, tying the game on a double by Ike Davis and an RBI single by Marlon Byrd.
In the third, Matt Den Dekker led off with a single, stole second, and moved up to third on a long fly out by Collin Cowgill. He was driven in on a sacrifice fly by Marlon Byrd, as the Mets went ahead 2-1. After Lucas Duda badly misplayed what should’ve been a single, allowing Blake DeWitt to advance all the way to third, the Braves tied the game at 2 on an RBI single by Tyler Pastornicky. During that same frame, Travis d’Arnaud received a relay throw from Ruben Tejada, blocked the plate, and tagged out Chris Johnson who was attempting to score. During the next at bat, he gunned down Pastornicky who was trying to steal second.
The Braves went ahead 3-2 in the seventh on a solo homer by Chris Johnson off long shot bullpen candidate Darin Gorski. Atlanta closed out the scoring in the eighth, tallying a run off Josh Edgin on an RBI ground out to make it 4-2.
- Jeremy Hefner got the start for the Mets, and allowed one run (a solo homer to Justin Upton in the first) on three hits over three innings. He walked none and struck out two.
- Filling in for the injured Kirk Nieuwenhuis in center field, Matt den Dekker lined a single to right field in the third and immediately stole second. He then advanced to third base on a fly out and scored on a sacrifice fly. He finished 1 for 4 with a run scored.
- Travis d’Arnaud got the start behind the plate and went 1 for 3, driving a long double to left center field in the fourth. Interestingly, d’Arnaud blocked the plate in the fifth (something he’s been advised not to do during the spring) and tagged out Chris Johnson, who was trying to score.
- Collin Cowgill continued his strong spring, singling in his first at bat. He had second base stolen after his hit, but was tagged out after his foot came off the bag. He finished the game 1 for 4.
- Ike Davis doubled in the first inning, and went 1 for 2 with a run scored.
- Marlon Byrd went 1 for 2 with two RBI’s, and is hitting an even .400 this spring. He’s looking like a lock to break camp with the team.
- Heralded prospect Rafael Montero, who has yet to pitch above A ball, came in for the fourth inning and looked nasty. He retired the side in order on eight pitches, with his fastball sitting between 92 and 94 MPH. He allowed a run on three hits in the fifth. He walked none and struck out one. Montero will likely open the year with AA Binghamton.
- Jeurys Familia, who’s competing for a spot in the bullpen, pitched the sixth and had his second consecutive impressive outing. He worked around a two out walk while touching 99 MPH on the gun.
- Darin Gorski, whose chances of breaking camp as the second lefty in the pen shrunk with the return of Pedro Feliciano, entered in the seventh and allowed a solo home run to Chris Johnson. He allowed three hits (two of which bounced out of the gloves of Mets infielders), walked none, and struck out two.
- Josh Edgin pitched the eighth and allowed a run on an RBI ground out. He walked none and struck out one.
- Brian Bixler continued to be unimpressive in the field. With runners on the corners and one out in the eighth, he fielded a ball at third and threw to first instead of coming home. If he had thrown home, he likely would’ve had the runner dead to rights.
- Bobby Parnell came in for the ninth, and tossed a scoreless frame, striking out one and walking none.
Hefner is a candidate to open the season in the rotation if Johan Santana isn’t ready to go. Hefner looked good over his three innings today. He’s not someone who will ever overpower hitters, but he’s an at times serviceable rotation fill in. In the event Santana isn’t ready for opening day, I’d rather see the Mets go with Collin McHugh. It’s pretty much known what Hefner has to offer, and it’d behoove the Mets to find out what McHugh (who only has 20 or so major league innings under his belt) is made of as well.
With Kirk Nieuwenhuis injured, there’s a chance Matt den Dekker will break camp with the team. den Dekker’s defense in center is viewed as potentially special, but his offensive game needs to be polished. He usually struggles before initially adjusting each time he jumps a level. It was nice to see den Dekker contribute on the offensive end today, going 1 for 4 with a stolen base and a run scored.
Travis d’Arnaud was impressive today, going 1 for 3 with a long double. He looked even better on the defensive side of things. In the fifth, he received a relay throw from Ruben Tejada, set himself, and blocked the plate while tagging out Chris Johnson. Right after that, he picked a pitch in the dirt and threw out Taylor Pastornicky who was trying to steal second. It’s tantalizing to envision d’Arnaud behind the plate on opening day, but barring an injury to John Buck, it simply isn’t in the cards. The Mets can guarantee themselves an extra year of team control by keeping d’Arnaud in AAA for the first 20 days of the season, and it’s the right move to do just that.
The Mets are off tomorrow. Their next game is against team Venezuela on Wednesday at 12:35 PM. The tilt against Venezuela isn’t being televised, but it can be heard on WEPN 1050 AM (Spanish) radio.