Pelfrey shakes off pressure at Shea
Righty could be sent down, but Saturday start won't hurt him
NEW YORK -- By no means were these lobs, but as the ball smacked into catcher Brian Schneider's mitt on Saturday, he wondered why Mike Pelfrey wasn't imprinting 96-mph fastballs into his palms.
"Are you OK?" Schneider asked Pelfrey in the dugout, wondering if those 92-mph semi-burners were signs of a starter without his blazing best. It would have been bad timing for anything less than Pelfrey's finest, as the 24-year-old was basically pitching for his spot in the rotation with Pedro Martinez on the verge of reassuming his role on Tuesday.
But what Schneider didn't know was that Pelfrey had grown beyond the power pitcher who blows it by startled hitters. Instead of letting loose with the heat, he wanted to play more of a finesse game, locating his pitches on the barren edges of the plate.
Mets manager Willie Randolph said the former first-round Draft pick just looked like he belonged at this level on Saturday, holding the Dodgers to two runs over seven innings, including retiring the final 12 batters he faced. It'll certainly give the organization a reason to pause and rethink sending the 6-foot-7 righty down to the Minors.
Before the game, Randolph expressed interest in potentially using Pelfrey for short spurts out of the bullpen. And after the game, it seemed as though it would be even more difficult to demote Pelfrey after his seven-inning performance.
"No doubt, this kid is a part of our future, and we want him to get going," Randolph said. "We have a tough decision to make in a couple of days, and we'll have to make it. I just think this is a great step for him as a pitcher, to see how he deals with adversity and ups and downs. Today, he came through with flying colors."
Even through the first four innings, when the Dodgers touched up Pelfrey for seven hits, he didn't second-guess himself. A few rubdowns of the ball and many cap readjustments were the only signs of anxiousness from Pelfrey throughout the game.
In the fourth inning, Pelfrey got a visit from yet another teammate, first baseman Carlos Delgado, who told him to just "be aggressive." In the next three innings, Pelfrey held the Dodgers hitless.
All the righty can now hope is that he made enough of an impression to stick around in a Mets uniform instead of throwing at New York's Triple-A affiliate, New Orleans. Regardless, he's just happy to be moving in the right direction as a player.
"If they tell me I'm going to New Orleans, it's not the first time," Pelfrey said. "If they tell me I'm going to the bullpen, it's not the first time. I'm not going to worry about that. That's their decision. My whole focus is to keep working and keep getting better."
Jon Blau is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.