Notes: Wagner getting 'giddy' with it
Left-hander breaks in split-finger fastball in first exhibition game
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- It was a debut within a debut, a coming out within an unveiling. There in the top of the fifth inning of the Mets' first exhibition game, Billy Wagner introduced his new pitch to real competition. Without a drumroll, but hardly without trepidation, the Mets' closer broke out his split-finger fastball.
And it worked -- well, sort of. It wasn't whacked by Marcus Thames. Indeed, the Tigers' left fielder didn't even offer at the pitch. But along the way, from the fingertips of Wagner's left hand to the mitt of Paul Lo Duca, the pitch sent a message: "Not everything will be thrown hard from now on."
Wagner wants a pitch that might put some doubt in hitters' minds, that will require less energy to throw and that may "get me some easier outs."
"It's a start," he said.
First, the pitcher had to overcome doubt in his mind.
"I was giddy with it," Wagner said. "Lo Duca wondered whether I'd really throw it. When I did, it did exactly what I wanted it to do. It's a pitch they'll probably take until they've seen more of it. I want it to be a dead fish [an offspeed pitch away from the hitter]. It'll probably be a work in progress all year. There will be some good ones and some bad ones. I've just got to keep the bad ones away from the bats."
Wagner made his pitch in the middle of the Mets' 5-4 loss to the Tigers. Thames later doubled against him, and he scored the fifth run on a single by former Met Vance Wilson. The Tigers' first four runs had come in the first innings against Oliver Perez, who surrendered five hits -- three for extra bases -- a walk and a sacrifice fly in his 12-batter outing.
Perez hardly was upset with his work, and Lo Duca supported him in that regard.
"He probably threw too many strikes," the catcher said. "But I'd rather have him do that than give up walks. It's just like when I'm batting in an early spring game; I'd rather see six of seven pitches and not get a hit than single on the first pitch.
"This is about getting ready for the season, not winning games."
Trainer's room: Carlos Beltran, who missed the second intrasquad game Tuesday because of tightness in his quad, played Wednesday. Jose Valentin, who twisted his right ankle running the bases Monday, didn't.
It's Humber as in umbrage: But he doesn't take any when his surname is mispronounced. The "H" is silent, so it's pronounced like Jim Umbarger, the Rangers pitcher in the '70s, like umpire. But if you pronounce the "H," as in hum, Humber won't mind that much. He's likely to say "Ah, what the eck!"
Most of his teammates include the "H," Or they go by one of his nicknames -- Humby, Hummer or Hump. He answers to all. Even his friend Mike Pelfrey uses the "H." And Pelfrey has a special interest in his teammate's surname. He shares part of it.
When the two were in the Arizona Fall League and again when they attended the rookie development program in Virginia in January, their identifies merged.
"They called us Humphrey," Pelfrey said. "We must have spent a lot of time together."
Humber and Pelfrey are not the first set of Mets teammates with merged names. In 1974, with Willie Mays retired, Mets manager Yogi Berra created something of a platoon in center field with the right-handed hitter, Don Hahn, starting 84 games, and the left-handed hitter, Dave Schneck, starting 58.
So the player in center was "Hahnschneck," of course. Tug McGraw called him -- or them -- "our German center fielder."
Busman's Holiday: After a full day at the park -- 8 a.m. until after 4 p.m. -- how did David Wright spend his evening? Watching Glen Johnson, son of Mets coach Howard and something akin to Wright's fourth brother, play in a high school baseball game.
Wright, Mets COO Jeff Wilpon, Minor Leaguers Cory Ragsdale and Joe Hietpas joined Howard Johnson in the stands, but only after HoJo had thrown out the first pitch, with Wright serving as his catcher.
"And," Wright said, laughing, "he bounced it."
Furthermore: The Mets wore full uniforms for the first exhibition game, rather than wearing batting practice jerseys as they have in other springs. They'll wear them randomly during the 34-game spring schedule. ... The Mets scored three runs in the eighth inning, two on a single by Julio Franco. ... Manager Willie Randolph said he was impressed by the physical condition of Alay Soler, the forgotten candidate for the rotation. Soler threw two scoreless innings Wednesday. ... David Newhan drove in the Mets' other runs. ... Randolph's first batting order had Beltran second, Moises Alou third, Carlos Delgado fourth, Lo Duca fifth and David Wright sixth. ... Two heads are better than one, so there will be a second Lo Duca bobblehead doll this year. The Dodgers produced the first.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.