Reflections From Port St. Lucie – Part II


Hope you enjoyed some of the nuggets I passed along surrounding David Wright, Jeff Francoeur and Mike Pelfrey in the last installment. Today, I’m going focus on a few of the new additions to the Mets clubhouse and give my impressions of where Carlos Beltran’s head is at after hearing what he had to say.

Let’s start with my impressions of the Mets major offseason import, Jason Bay. During the two days I was down in St. Lucie, I made it a priority to really key on Bay, observing his routine, demeanor and interactions during stretching, defensive drills, batting practice and most importantly in the locker room around his new teammates. I came away very impressed with this guy’s work ethic and professionalism, which is everything I had heard about him from past narratives.

Despite now being set for life after siging a gaudy 4-year/$66 million deal, there must be an immense amount of pressure on this quiet man from British Columbia. He is coming into a situation that was disastrous and it’s almost like he is being counted on to be a savior rather than a major piece to a puzzle. Most of the expectations of course originate from success-starved Mets fans. From what I heard from Bay during the seven or eight minutes he sat down with us, he understands the predicament, but said he simply wants to fit in and be a part of the solution.

One thing I took from the interview is that he feels as if his play over the past five years or so warranted the contract he received from Omar Minaya and crew, and after looking at the stats, it is hard to argue with him. Four times he hit over 30 HRs and four times he eclipsed the 100 RBI mark and let’s not forget, a majority of the at-bats during this span came with the dreadful Pirates. Most importantly in my book, four times he played over 150 games, a fact that Bay told us gave him as much pride as any of the impressive numbers he amassed.

The other major point I took from Bay is that he is ready for the pressure cooker that is the NY baseball market. He said he got as good a primer as one could get in 200 combined games he played with the Red Sox the past two years. He knows he is walking into a clubhouse with guys like Wright, Johan Santana and Carlos Beltran already entrenched so it will be easy for him to just blend in. On the other hand, I sensed that he would have no problem stepping into a leadership role and deflecting some of the attention Wright receives on a daily basis if necessary. Mets fans, I know it is going to be all about the production Bay puts forward, but I think you are going to like this guy and enjoy watching the professional manner in which he goes about his business.

As for the other major addition to the mix, Rod Barajas, I came away thoroughly impressed as well (I know, everyone’s a winner and a champ in spring training, but we need a little positive energy here). Barajas has been around for awhile now and I think he will add a nice veteran presence behind the plate to work with the likes of Pelfrey, John Maine, Oliver Perez. His on-base and batting average numbers leave much to be desired, but he does have some pop, as evidence by his 19 HRs in 2009.

Barajas told us that he is not worried about establishing a rapport with a pitcher the caliber of Santana. He pointed to the fact that

he has had the chance to catch Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling in their primes in Arizona and was the backstop for Roy Halladay the past couple of seasons in Toronto. He also told us that the Mets struggles from last year did were not a deterrent when he considered and eventually chose to sign with the team. In fact, he believes this team has load of talent and is capable of some special things. I’m not sure I’m going there quite yet, but looking around the room, the talent level is certainly high. The question is, can they all stay on the field

Now to Beltran. We were lucky to have been hanging around in the locker room after the workout was over when Beltran strolled in. After he gave Darryl Strawberry (in camp as a special instructor a hug), we caught him at his locker and talked to him for about five minutes. Before the camera started rolling, my reporter asked him weather he was still angry at the Mets for the way his latest surgery was handled by the team and the medical staff. He said he wasn’t bitter and he was concentrating on his rehab so he can get back into the lineup as soon as possible. I am not sure I believe him. I think he wants out of NY and is going to take his sweet old time coming back from this injury so he can be entirely healthy for his walk year in 2011.

When the light on the camera went on, Beltran said he is perhaps a month away from resuming “baseball activities”. If that is the case, I wouldn’t expect to see Carlos in the Mets lineup until at least the middle of May. With Angel Pagan and Gary Matthews, Jr. likely to split duties in CF, the Mets seem to be in capable hands. Neither of these guys is an all-world OF like Beltran, but I have faith they can hold down the fort until he is healthy. I’ve said in the past that I believe Beltran is the most important cog in the Mets lineup and they are going nowhere without him.

In the next installment, I’ll focus on the state of Jose Reyes and what I saw from a few of the Mets top prospects.