Down in Port St. Lucie, pitching is the name of the game. An early review is in order. As of post time, the Mets’ Advanced-A affiliate owns the Florida State League’s best team ERA with a 2.44 mark, as they have allowed the second least runs in the circuit, just one run behind the league’s best. Additionally, the St. Lucie Mets lead the Florida State League in both strikeouts and shutouts.
Noah Syndergaard has pitched nine innings over two starts. He so far has kept his hits below innings pitched at seven, but has walked five batters. Otherwise, he has already accumulated thirteen strikeouts, and his ERA sits at an even 2.00. Hansel Robles has three starts under his belt, and sports a higher 3.45 earned run average, no doubt helped along by surrendering three home runs. In 15.2 innings, he has allowed fourteen hits, with four walks, and so far has ten strikeouts. Rounding out a quartet of power arms, Jacob deGrom had a 3.00 ERA after two starts before his promotion to AA Binghamton. In twelve innings, he allowed twelve hits, but only issued two walks. Along with Noah Syndergaard, Jacob has thirteen strikeouts which tie them for ninth in the league. Domingo Tapia is sporting a more inflated 3.55 ERA after three starts, and 12.2 innings pitched. Tapia has surrendered ten hits, and issued a lofty six bases on balls, while striking out twelve.
Feb 21, 2013; Port St Lucie, FL, USA; New York Mets relief pitcher Frank Francisco (48) poses for a picture during photo day at Tradition Field. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Early on, the bullpen has been stellar. St. Lucie’s top eight relievers have combined on a 1.04 earned run average. In 43.2 innings pitched, they’ve allowed five runs on thirty-six hits. They have combined to issue twelve walks, and strikeout forty batters. Randy Fontanez has been a stand out performer. In 6.1 innings, he has ten strikeouts, has limited opponents to six hits, issued a lone walk, and has yet to allow a run. Jim Fuller leads the relief corp in holds. In 6.1 innings, Fuller likewise has not yielded a run. Four pitchers have each recorded a save.
St. Lucie 2
In Wednesday night’s match-up versus the visiting Charlotte Stone Crabs, St. Lucie’s Marcos Camarena made his first start after two previous relief appearances. He got roughed up for four runs, including a home run, in his first three innings pitched. Marcos stayed in for five innings, allowed six hits in all, walked three batters and struck out none. In a bit of early season baseball math gone wild, his ERA dropped from 9.82 prior to his start, to an 8.31 mark after leaving the game.
The Mets’ bullpen kept Charlotte quiet through the sixth, seventh, and eighth innings. Aided by familiar names from Flushing, T.J. Chism teamed with Pedro Feliciano and Frank Francisco to pitch an inning each, allowing one hit, one walk, and striking out four. St. Lucie however, would not score again. For good measure, the Stone Crabs tacked on an insurance run in the top of the ninth with a homer off Chasen Bradford. The Charlotte Stone Crabs not only salvaged the final game of their three game series by a 5-2 score, but also halted St. Lucie’s mini winning streak at three games.
Thursday, the St. Lucie Mets continue their home-stand, opening a three game series against the undefeated (12-0) leader of the Florida South Division, the Fort Myers Miracle. At 9-4, the St. Lucie Mets currently sit in second place, 3.5 games back. The hope here is that they can gain some ground on first place.
Pedro Feliciano’s situation is well known. On the heels of learning about a heart condition back in Spring Training, he requested to stay in St. Lucie. And professionally speaking, his arm strength was not up to par. In Wednesday’s game, the lefty pitched an inning and struck out two batters. So far in two appearances, he pitched two innings, allowed a hit, issued a walk, and struck out three. His ERA sits at zero. According to reports, his fastball velocity has been between 84 and 86 MPH, a marked improvement over the 82-83 MPH heat he displayed during spring training.
Frank Francisco is still trying to work his way back from elbow surgery, as he continued to suffer inflammation and discomfort through March. Wednesday evening was his first mound appearance of the 2013 season. He struck out one batter in an inning of work.
WHO’S HOT – WHO’S NOT:
Batting .310, center fielder Gilbert Gomez is St. Lucie’s top hitter. His .408 OBP also leads the team. Shortstop T.J. Rivera is second on the club with an even .300 average and a .379 OBP. His thirteen runs batted in tie him for the league lead.
Despite Wednesday’s home run and two for the season, Aderlin Rodriguez has suffered a pronounced fall-off at the plate. Meanwhile, left fielder Travis Taijeron is mired in a early season funk, batting .222 with fourteen strikeouts in forty-five at-bats.