Notes: DiFelice shores up Mets' bench
Veteran catcher recalled to play the role of backup to Castro
NEW YORK -- Not 24 hours ago, Mike DiFelice was grabbing his helmet, taking his hacks and preparing to be a hero. His Triple-A Zephyrs had the bases loaded and DiFelice was the pinch-hitter by default, the last chance for New Orleans to avoid its first loss in a week.
Then came the call, and some handful of hours later, DiFelice was on a plane to New York, Paul Lo Duca's strained right hamstring felling the last domino in an odd chain of catcher happenings. DiFelice passed on his bases-loaded opportunity to prepare for the trip, and the Zephyrs -- just like the Mets, some 1,300 miles away -- were forced to pinch-hit a pitcher.
"Sometimes," said DiFelice, "that's just how the world turns."
When Lo Duca went down with the strain that will keep him out until at least Tuesday, backup Ramon Castro assumed the interim starting duties. But the Mets needed a backup to take his place, and since Sandy Alomar Jr. won't clear waivers until Tuesday -- he was designated for assignment last week to make room for Moises Alou -- DiFelice jumped up one more notch on the depth chart.
DiFelice shouldn't stick around long, but the Mets certainly won't complain while he's here. A veteran of eight Major League teams over 11 seasons, the catcher last played regularly with the Royals in 2003, when he batted .254. He's here for emergency purposes only, but the fact that the Mets have veterans such as DiFelice and Alomar to help in a pinch proves the unexpected ways in which a farm system can help.
"I've been through the drill here," DiFelice said. "I don't think any teams in the Major Leagues have the luxury of having two guys -- maybe as old as us -- but definitely with our experience, ready to help the ball club out."
Heilman flying high: Aaron Heilman credits his recent resurgence -- it's now been eight straight scoreless innings and counting -- to improved fastball command. He also won't discount his redefined role, as he's once again the primary right-handed arm out of the bullpen. Yet perhaps the reliever's greatest boost comes from something that doesn't seem like a boost at all.
Heilman is tired.
And it's helped. Heilman's tendency to overthrow -- a habit that played into his uncharacteristic early struggles -- has all but disappeared, mainly because he doesn't have the strength to do it anymore.
"You just don't feel as strong and as crisp and refreshed as you do the first month," Heilman said.
He's tried all sorts of tricks to promote that fatigue, running and lifting and throwing more often than normal.
"But it's hard to simulate the effort you're having in a game no matter what you're doing," he said.
Being tired isn't such a bad thing. Heilman insists it doesn't affect him in a negative way, because the adrenaline on game day won't let it. And the numbers back that up. Heilman's ERA stands at 2.55 in July, and he's walked four batters against 27 strikeouts over the past two months. Before the break, opponents were batting .235 against the right-hander. Since then, just .170.
Before Ronnie Belliard touched him for a run-scoring double in the second half of Saturday's doubleheader, Heilman had retired 22 of his previous 23 batters faced, and had allowed just one of his previous 18 inherited runners to score.
He'll certainly take that resurgence, however it's come about -- and he can eliminate just one possible cause off the top of his head.
"It's not the goatee," Heilman joked of his newest facial feature. "But it doesn't hurt."
Changes: Willie Randolph shed his post-surgical sling, and Rick Peterson didn't wear his jacket in the dugout. ... In the first inning Sunday, Jose Reyes batted with his average lower than .300 for the first time since the third game of the season. But he doubled to put his average at .301.
This date in Mets history -- July 30: The Mets defeated one of their 1962 brethren in this date in 1963. Bob L. Miller, a borderline pitcher for the first-year Mets, became more of a celebrity in '62 because of the confusion caused by his presence and that of fellow pitcher Robert G. Miller on the same roster. You want more confusion? Robert L. Miller, an original Met traded to the Dodgers after the '62 season, was the losing pitcher and Tracy Stallard the winner in the Mets' 5-1 against the Dodgers in L.A. on July 30, 1963. A year later to the day, Miller was the winner and Stallard the loser in the Mets' 5-3 loss to the Dodgers at Shea Stadium, In that game, the Mets actually had a 3-0 lead against Sandy Koufax entering the seventh inning, by virtue of the three-run home run Hawk Taylor hit against Koufax in the fourth.
On this date in 1971, Gary Gentry allowed four singles and three walks in a 4-0 shutout of the Cubs at Shea.
Dwight Gooden allowed five singles and two walks and struck out 10 in a methodical shutout of the Expos on this date in 1985. Expos third baseman Tim Wallach, who struck out 27 times in 82 career at-bats against Gooden, was not a victim that day.
Rickey Henderson scored twice and drove in two runs, and Mike Piazza scored twice and had three RBI in the Mets' 10-9 victory against the Cubs at Wrigley Field in 1999. Pat Mahomes, en route to an 8-0 record, gained his fourth victory. Rookie reliever Kyle Farnsworth, en route to 5-9 record, was the loser.
This and that: Lo Duca had an MRI on his strained right hamstring on Sunday morning, the results of which were not immediately available. ... Alou was in the starting lineup for the second straight game, his third since being activated from the DL. "I trust him when he tells me how his body feels," said manager Willie Randolph. ... Carlos Beltran was out of the lineup for the sixth straight game, forcing the Mets to consider the possibility of DL time. If the Mets made a move retroactive to his last game, he'd be eligible to come off on Aug. 8. ... The Mets designated reliever Jon Adkins for assignment prior to Sunday's game, recalling utilityman David Newhan.
Coming up: Tom Glavine tries for career win No. 300 for the first time on Tuesday night, ushering the Mets into a three-game series at Milwaukee. Glavine will oppose veteran Jeff Suppan in the 8:05 p.m. ET start.
Anthony DiComo is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.