04/08/10 10:38 PM ET
Pelfrey, Mock out to show they belong
Another series, another spin through the National League East. Both the Mets and Nationals began their respective seasons against a division rival, and they'll get to go right back to the well this weekend. Washington will visit the Mets over the next three days, and Friday's series opener will feature youngsters Garrett Mock and Mike Pelfrey.
Mock will take the mound following a Washington win, thanks to a late double by Ryan Zimmerman in Thursday's series finale against Philadelphia. The Nationals experienced a similar early-season schedule last year, when they played division rivals in each of their first seven series and emerged with a 5-15 record. Washington finished 25-47 against NL East teams in 2009.
The Mets had much the same problem last season, thanks to a bizarre spate of injuries that robbed them of continuity. The Mets posted a 10-8 record against the Nationals in 2009, but wound up going 28-44 overall against division rivals. New York is still awaiting the return of Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran, both of whom play huge roles on offense and defense.
Southpaws John Lannan and Oliver Perez will match up in the second game of the series, and New York will send ace Johan Santana to the hill in the finale. Washington will counter with veteran Livan Hernandez.
Nationals: Mock ready to deliver
Mock earned a rotation berth despite a contentious Spring Training derby with southpaw Scott Olson, who will begin the season with Triple-A Syracuse. Mock, a former third-round Draft pick, was acquired from Arizona during the 2006 season as part of a trade for veteran starter Livan Hernandez, and the Nationals believe he can grow into a mid-rotation starter.
Mock went 3-10 with a 5.62 ERA last year, and the Nats have told him that he's on a relatively short leash. The 26-year-old knows that Olson is right behind him and knows that he can't afford a slow start this season.
"The expectations are high," Mock said. "I expect a lot out of myself. It goes a lot deeper. There are a lot of things I expect out of myself. I don't feel any pressure. I know [the Nationals] believe in my stuff. It's time to get started and it's time to win."
Mets: Tejada taking advantage of opportunity
Ruben Tejada has been afforded a great opportunity with Reyes on the sideline, but that wild ride may be coming to an end. Tejada, a 20-year-old infielder, may be on the other side of the transaction whenever Reyes comes off the disabled list. That could be as early as Saturday, the first day Reyes is eligible to come off the 15-day DL.
Mets officials will discuss Reyes -- who has been sidelined by the effects of a glandular condition since late March -- before Friday's game. Tejada made his Major League debut Wednesday as a pinch-hitter and then started Thursday at shortstop, but he's well aware that his short-term future is all but inexorably tied to Reyes and his recovery.
Tejada appears to be the favorite to start at shortstop in Friday's game, but he's already made his mark. On Thursday, Tejada became the youngest player to start a big league game since Tampa Bay's B.J. Upton did it in September 2004. Now, Tejada is waiting to learn his fate and willing to do whatever it takes to make a good impression with the Mets.
"I'm ready to play where they want me," Tejada said. "I want to play here or where they say I should play."
The Mets' Opening Day roster had more foreign-born players (18) than any other team in the league. Interestingly, the Mets have held that distinction in four out of the past five years. ... The Mets have five rookies on their roster, and two of them -- 20-year-olds Jenrry Mejia and Tejada -- are the two youngest players in the league. ... Washington's early-season schedule appears to be as tough as any team in the league. Thirty-one of the Nationals' first 40 games are against teams that finished 2009 with a winning record. ... Fifteen of Ian Desmond's first 25 hits have gone for extra bases.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.