06/29/2002 8:02 pm ET
Cedeno hears the call
Valentine yelled for Cedeno to steal home
By Kevin T. Czerwinski / MLB.com
NEW YORK -- Roger Cedeno danced off third base in the fourth inning Saturday afternoon at Yankee Stadium but never had any intention of running.
The thought of stealing home wasn't in his plans, especially with Edgardo Alfonzo, one of the Mets' best contact hitters, at the plate. But then Cedeno heard a voice. It wasn't the base runner within telling him to break for the plate off Yankees' starter Ted Lilly, though. It was Bobby Valentine screaming from the Mets dugout.
Cedeno, who had tripled to right centerfield, waited for Lilly's second pitch to make his move. Alfonzo half feigned a bunt as Cedeno steamed down the line. Lilly's pitch beat Cedeno to the plate but he lifted his right leg over Alberto Castillo's tag and touched home plate. There was no argument from Castillo after home plate umpire and crew chief Larry Young made the call.
It was the first steal of home by a Met since Todd Hundley swiped home on June 16, 1997 at Yankee Stadium. It was the first straight steal of home by a Met since Tommie Agee did it July 31, 1971 in the eighth inning of a 5-2 victory against the Cubs.
"Bobby was screaming at me from the dugout 'Go! Go! Go! He's slow to home plate'," said Cedeno, who was later thrown out trying to steal second in the sixth. "I had no intention of going. I was surprised. With Alfonzo hitting I was afraid to go. I was scared Edgardo was going to swing the bat there.
"When you try to steal home, you just have to concentrate on getting there before the ball does."
It was the first time Cedeno attempted to steal home in his career.
"That was me," Yankees manager Joe Torre said of the play. "I just fell asleep at the switch. He should have been pitching from the stretch. He's slow when he winds up and I just didn't react quickly enough. When somebody gets up and they're a base-stealing threat like Roger is, I was just late with it. In fact, 'late' was over by the time I saw what happened. We're observing and that's my job."
The reaction on the Mets bench was also one of surprise. Most were shocked that Valentine not only urged Cedeno to run but also was so vocal about it.
"He's yelling 'Go! Go!' and I'm thinking to myself that he can't go," Mo Vaughn said.
Said Mike Piazza, "That was cool. You don't see that everyday."
ROBERTS READY TO RETURN: Grant Roberts was back with the team Saturday morning after throwing a perfect inning in a rehab appearance for Double-A Binghamton of the Eastern League. His effort Friday night against Reading went as well as could be expected, and he should be activated off the disabled list either Sunday or Monday.
"I felt pretty good," said Roberts, who has been on the disabled list with a strained right rotator cuff since June 9. "There was no pain. I was a little rusty so I'm definitely glad that I went on a rehab assignment. But I wasn't throwing all out, maybe just 85 or 90 percent. I didn't want to push it. And, I just wanted to give myself as much time off without straining it again."
Roberts said that when he is completely healthy and throwing well, he's usually throwing at only 85 to 90 percent.
"Sometimes you have to dig deep and give it all you have," Roberts said. "But you can't throw like that all the time."
When Roberts is reactivated, though, the Mets will have an interesting decision to make regarding which pitcher gets demoted to Triple-A Norfolk. Mark Corey was expected to be sent down but was placed on the disabled list this week after suffering a seizure. Jaime Cerda was called up to replace Corey and had an impressive Major League debut Friday night at Yankee Stadium, striking out the side in 1 2/3 innings of work. He followed that up with another scoreless inning on Saturday in which he added another strikeout.
It's not a lock that Cerda will be sent down. Satoru Komiyama has been largely unimpressive, going 0-3 with a 4.63 ERA in 21 games. He's given up five home runs in 35 innings. He pitched one inning Friday night, allowing one run and walking two batters.
Assistant general manager Jim Duquette said that many but not all options regarding Roberts' return have been discussed. He said none of those discussions, though, have involved Komiyama thus far.
VALENTIN'S DAY: John Valentin got the start at second base on Saturday partly because Roberto Alomar has struggled against lefties and partly because he has a history of playing in rivalry games against the Yankees dating back to his days with the Red Sox.
Valentine said that games like these at Yankee Stadium are in Valentin's blood. Valentine's hunch proved correct. Valentin had two hits and a pair of RBIs, including the run-scoring single that gave the Mets a 1-0 lead in the first.
"I was pleased," said Valentin, who is hitting .235 with 16 RBIs. "I just want to go out and play hard like I always do. It's always a pleasure to play against the best team, though, a team that's won the World Championship. It's exciting and fun. If you can't get up for it, then you shouldn't be playing."
THIS AND THAT: Duquette addressed the media, taking over for Steve Phillips. The general manager was home sick Saturday afternoon after leaving Friday's game early. ... Duquette said that all the test results they have received thus far concerning Corey have been negative in terms of detecting the cause of his seizure. He added that as far as the organization is concerned, any involvement Tony Tarasco had in the incident -- Corey admitted to smoking marijuana -- is a past issue. Tarasco was still unwilling to give any further information about the incident. ... Roberto Alomar defended himself once again, saying that rumors being circulated about his unhappiness in New York are unfounded. He also shot down the notion that he is feuding with Rey Ordonez and Edgardo Alfonzo, adding that if someone has something to say about him "he should say it to my face". Alomar got the day off Saturday. Though he said he enjoys playing in Yankee Stadium, he quickly added that he was okay with some bench time. "It's a day game and we're going to play at least six more games in the mid-90s between Philadelphia and Florida," Valentine said. "He hasn't had a day off in a long time." As for Alomar's continued struggles from the right side of the plate -- he's hitting .186 -- Valentine offered the latest theory: "He hasn't gotten into a good swing right-handed where he feels comfortable," he said. "We don't have a regular batting practice pitcher where he can work on those swings like he would like to on a regular basis. He's just a little behind." ... Scott Strickland was wearing a rather loud flowery shirt as he left the clubhouse Saturday. He was very proud of his attire, saying that the Mets are 3-0 when he wears the shirt with two of those victories coming against the Yanks. "You better wear that again tomorrow," bellowed team captain John Franco as Strickland exited. ... The Mets' 16-hit attack and Cedeno's steal of home stole much of Al Leiter's thunder. Leiter (8-6) went seven innings, scattering six hits and allowing only one run while striking out five. Three of his last four decisions have been victories and his ERA in his last five games is 2.66. Overall, his ERA has dropped to 2.95 after sitting at 3.39 on June 2.
Kevin T. Czerwinski covers the Mets for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.