PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- The enduring image from Brandon Nimmo's first professional season came in his debut late last summer, after Nimmo reported to the Class A Gulf Coast League Mets. The Draft's 13th overall pick recalls hitting a ball up the middle and immediately assuming it was a single.
Then, as Nimmo ran down the line, the opposing shortstop gobbled up the ball and threw him out by two steps.
"I said, 'Oh, goodness, this is a little bit faster,'" Nimmo recalled after reporting to the Mets' Minor League STEP camp Wednesday. "It's definitely different, I can tell you that much."
To combat that culture shock, Nimmo worked out this winter at the University of Arkansas, where he had committed before signing with the Mets. Living with Cardinals Minor League third baseman Zack Cox and Tigers catcher James McCann, both of whom were also Arkansas recruits, Nimmo forced himself to eat whatever food those two cooked and left behind.
"Whatever we didn't eat, I would have to eat," said Nimmo, who was able to gain 12 pounds and increase his weight to 197, with less than 10 percent body fat. "I would sit there for two hours and just shove down whatever I could."
Though the 18-year-old Nimmo remains raw and at least two years away from the big leagues, he is confident that he can move rapidly through the system. Considered one of the Draft's biggest risks when the Mets selected him at 13th overall, Nimmo possessed as much talent and as little experience as anyone on the board.
He believes his first full season in professional baseball will begin vindicating the Mets' selection.
"I don't want to sound cocky, but I feel like I'm advanced," Nimmo said. "I know that some people think that taking me in that No. 13 spot was maybe a little high, but I don't feel that way. I feel like they took me there for a reason and I know what that reason is: I can handle this."
Collins: Carrasco has to earn spot on Mets
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Though it is still early in camp, the Mets' bullpen is coming into clearer focus with each passing day. Manager Terry Collins said bluntly on Wednesday that D.J. Carrasco's contract situation -- he is guaranteed $1.2 million this season -- will play a role in whether the right-hander makes the Opening Day bullpen, but will not necessarily guarantee him a spot.
"He's got to make the club, and he knows it," Collins said, noting that Carrasco has reverted to his old style of pitching from varied arm slots. "When you look back, this guy's had pretty good success. He had a bad year, and he's the first to stand up and admit it."
That poor season included a 6.02 ERA and a midseason demotion to Triple-A Buffalo, where he rebounded only to a certain extent. Though Carrasco seemed to improve as the year wore on, he ended the season by allowing 13 runs over his final eight innings.
Still, Carrasco's contract and track record -- he bettered his ERA for five consecutive seasons before joining the Mets -- will give him an advantage in his pursuit of a roster spot. Frank Francisco, Jon Rauch, Ramon Ramirez and Tim Byrdak are all locks for the Opening Day 'pen, with Manny Acosta on the fringe of that conversation. That leaves just two open spots for Carrasco, Bobby Parnell, Pedro Beato and Josh Stinson, as well as a host of left-handed candidates.
Dickey's knuckler in midseason form
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Pity on those forced to stand in against R.A. Dickey. At a time when most hitters have trouble enough tracking fastballs and curveballs after a long winter, Dickey made several Mets look foolish during his live batting practice session Wednesday on Field 7.
Ike Davis howled after swinging and missing at one particularly nasty knuckleball. Lucas Duda thought he had one squared up, but "swung and missed by about three feet."
"He'll screw you up pretty good," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "But they all like to get in there just to see it."
Though Dickey cannot glean anything too meaningful from batters' reactions during these sessions, he does enjoy the confidence boost of a big swing-and-miss.
"I like to watch them commit to a ball and then have it do something that they've never seen before," Dickey said of his knuckler. "It's good reinforcement that it's moving like it should."
One wrinkle in Dickey's session came courtesy SportsNet New York, which installed a video camera on the bill of catcher Josh Thole's helmet. Smaller but thicker than a deck of playing cards and shielded by heavy-duty plastic casing, the high-definition camera will give television viewers a perspective of Dickey's pitches that only catchers and umpires typically see.
"It was a good day for it with the knuckleball," Thole said. "He had a good one."