Friday evening in upstate New York, right-hander Rafael Montero continued his strong pitching against the Akron Aeros, albeit during a 4-0 white-washing of the Binghamton Mets. In game one of their three game series, a trio of Akron pitchers combined to keep the home team scoreless, and limited to just five hits all game. Together, they walked two batters and struck out sixteen. Aeros starter, Danny Salazar (1-3) earned his first win of the season by pitching five innings of three hit ball, walking only one batter, and striking out nine. He fanned the side in the second inning. Then after Alonzo Harris led off the fourth inning with a single, and gained third base on an error with no outs, Danny Salazar reared back and struck out the next three Binghamton batters, again. All six B-Mets swung through strike three.
Feb 21, 2013; Port St Lucie, FL, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Rafael Montero (74) poses for a picture during photo day at Tradition Field. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Although he suffered his first loss of the season, Rafael Montero’s (3-1) performance still rates well. He lasted five innings, allowed two earned runs on four hits, walked two and struck out eight batters. Three hits and walked a batter contributed to Akron’s two runs off Montero in the third inning. Montero’s ERA rose slightly, to a 1.95 mark. Akron then scored twice more against reliever Adrian Rosario in the sixth, giving the Aeros a final 4-0 victory.
Friday evening’s loss lowered the B-Mets record to 11-10, and dropped them into a tie for fourth place, one full game behind the first place Trenton Thunder in the Eastern League’s Eastern Division. Today’s game two match-up will feature Binghamton’s Logan Verrett versus Akron’s Matt Packer. Logan Verrett hopes to continue his strong start. He so far has posted a 3-0 record in four starts. Logan sports a 2.55 earned run average after 24.2 innings pitched. He walked nine batters and has twelve strikeouts.
COMMENTARY: The Growing Predilection To Promote Zack Wheeler And Rafael Montero
A rapidly growing segment of METropilis is clamouring to have Zack Wheeler promoted to the big club. Two of my fellow Rising Apple cohorts recently expressed their desire to see Wheeler moved away from Las Vegas as quickly as possible, so as to escape the distorted realities of pitching in the Pacific Coast League. I, on the other hand, do not share their opinion. To put it bluntly, competing in 2013 means nothing to me. My attention, like that of the General Manager’s, is focused on the 2014 season. Zack Wheeler’s issues with walking batters is not localized to the PCL. He has walked batters at an uncomfortable rate since his initial professional season of 2010, while pitching for San Francisco’s system in the (Class-A) South Atlantic League. His minor league career rate of 4.3 walks per nine innings pitched is not due to a skyrocketing PCL phenomena, although it hasn’t helped. Be that as it may, his current rate of 5.8 W/9 exactly matches that of his 2010 Sally rate. Last year mind you, in making six International League starts for Buffalo, Wheeler walked sixteen batters in thirty-three innings. This season after five starts, he has walked fifteen over 23.1 innings. In fairness to Wheeler, and in support of my fellow writer’s positions, Zack’s walks spiked in 2011 while playing for San Jose of the California League, and now again, in the PCL – a western phenomena? Perhaps. In between, he posted a 1.7 mark at St Lucie, and a 3.3 mark at Binghamton, before arriving in Buffalo and posting a 4.4 W/9 mark. So, somewhere in the middle lies the truth.
For the first time in Zack Wheeler’s minor league career, he is allowing more hits than innings pitched. His current 5.79 ERA and 1.757 WHiP reflect accordingly. This is where I give a blister on his pitching finger full credence. His hits allowed and lofty ERA are both aberrations when compared to the span of his career. His rate of walks allowed however, have been more consistent. For now, Wheeler must continue improving, otherwise, he faces long innings against major league hitters. In a combined eleven starts in AAA, Wheeler has additionally been unable to pitch successfully, or effectively, into the sixth and seventh innings, averaging just 5.1 innings per start. Obviously, issuing so many walks hints at a bad economy of pitches regardless of his strikeouts. In major league translation, both combine for sub-quality starts. I hate the term, or its relevance, but it is what it is. However, that may be enough reason to send a young pitcher back down to the minor leagues for more seasoning. This is why I’m little impressed by his best start this season. If Wheeler gets promoted to Flushing within the context of the Mets needs, that’s fine. But as a rebuilding club, I pattern my thinking as if there is still a season to play with. Therefore, promoting Wheeler too early I feel just serves to feed our passion as fans, because there is no immediate pressing or competitive reason to do so. If he impresses over his next three or four consecutive starts, I’d gladly reconsider on a dime, because I want him here too.
Simmering heat has also been intensifying underneath the notion perhaps Rafael Montero, 22, increasingly perceived as the more accomplished pitcher of the two, should be leapfrogged to Flushing ahead of, or even along with Wheeler. On this count, I couldn’t disagree more.
Within the Mets organization’s history, we have numerous instances where pitchers have graduated from the low and mid-minors, who went on to achieve success in New York. Understand, I am not necessarily opposed to any one, or one’s, opinion. As in Wheeler’s case, my whole argument is based solely on our present 2013 condition, and questioning what’s the rush? Although, Montero’s situation is a bit more extreme in several ways. He is only five games into this present venture. At just twenty-two years of age, 2013 marks his first ever participation in AA baseball. In two previous seasons spanning every level between the Mets Dominican operations through Port St. Lucie, Montero totalled 193 innings pitched. Nonetheless, his work on the mound has been remarkable. Rafael has only issued three walks in 27.2 innings this season. Over his career, he has only issued thirty-five bases on balls in 220.0 total innings, while striking out two hundred-eleven. This season, he is fanning batters at a career high 11.4 K/9 rate.
Even I have to admit, jotting down and admiring a potential Queens starting rotation of Jon Niese, Matt Harvey, Dillon Gee, Zack Wheeler, and Rafael Montero makes me salivate like Pavlov’s dog. But I do not think the time for that has arrived just yet. Can we bring the Zack Wheeler matter up again in June? And can we at least give Rafael Montero a full season at Binghamton? What say you?