Dan's Dugout: Mets Pitchers, Old and New, Make Headlines • Latino Sports


Dan’s Dugout: Mets Pitchers, Old and New, Make Headlines


FLUSHING, NY – The last few days of spring training are always the most interesting – especially for fans who follow the small print in the transactions box of the daily paper.

Current and recent Mets pitchers have had more than their share of attention, some of it unwanted.

Jeurys Familia got only 15 games in suspension Photo Credit: Bill Menzel

Jeurys Familia got only 15 games in suspension
Photo Credit: Bill Menzel

Jeurys Familia, the incumbent closer, escaped with a mere slap on the wrist from the commissioner’s office for allegedly violating Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policy.

Lefthanded starter Steven Matz, coming off a season slowed by elbow issues, won’t be the No. 4 starter thanks to a recurrence of soreness just days before the April 3 season opener.

Jon Niese, trying to hook on with the crosstown Yankees, was released and re-signed over a two-day span.

Dillon Gee, after an impressive spring, exercised the out clause in his contract with the Texas Rangers.

Another erstwhile Mets mainstay, Mike Pelfrey, drew his outright release from the Detroit Tigers but may yet hook on with a club that needs an extra arm in the pen.

And two aging ex-Mets who made many headlines in New York grabbed vacant spots in the starting rotation of the Atlanta Braves.

Let’s start with Familia, who saved 51 games last season before blowing the save in the last inning of the sudden-death wild-card game.

Aroldis Chapman was banned for 30 games last year

Aroldis Chapman was banned for 30 games last year

The righthanded fireballer received a suspension equivalent to a stay on the 15-day disabled list. All three men suspended under the same MLB policy last year – Aroldis Chapman, Jose Reyes, and Hector Olivera – landed bans of at least double that length.

While it’s true that charges against the closer were dropped by authorities, it’s also true that Mets general manager Sandy Alderson used to work in the Commissioner’s Office and still has strong ties there. Before anyone yells “conflict of interest,” however, both the pitcher and his wife were forthcoming in their testimony when Rob Manfred investigated.

Since Familia had been working as a spokesman against domestic violence for authorities in the Metro New York area, one would think he would know how to behave better in his own home.
For that reason alone, the suspension should have been longer.

Another bad thing about a slap-on-the-wrist suspension is the poor example it sets for others. The biggest question is this: will other players control their tempers if they think punishment is so light? Familia lost $770,000 as a result of the ban but that’s a mere drop in the bucket for a man earning $7.425 million.

The suspension might even wind up helping the closer, who might have been overused last fall. Slicing two weeks off his workload will wind up being helpful when the pressure tightens in September – especially if the expected title fight with Washington materializes.

The Mets will manage, especially if Addison Reed pitches as well in the ninth inning as he did when he was Familia’s set-up man. But they might want to keep an eye on their starting rotation.

Matz, a promising young southpaw, may bear watching all season – even after doctors clear his balky

Southpaw Steven Matz is still having elbow issues

Southpaw Steven Matz is still having elbow issues

elbow. The team will also be watching Bartolo Colon, who won 15 games before jumping to Atlanta via free agency, and R.A. Dickey, another 40-something righty, who won a Cy Young trophy with the Mets five years ago while throwing a knuckleball that doesn’t hurt his arm.

Gee, Pelfrey, and Niese also had marvelous moments with the Mets of recent vintage and might be worth bringing back if the likes of Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo can’t continue their magic of last September. Colon, for one, won’t be around to bail them out. He’ll just be around – in the visitors dugout, getting ready to start the second game of the season as an opposing player.

Elsewhere in baseball:

Michael Bourn and Chris Johnson, both cut loose by Baltimore, could land bench roles before Sunday’s deadline for finalizing 25-man rosters . . .

Manager Joe Girardi encourages prize pupil Aaron Judge

Manager Joe Girardi encourages prize pupil Aaron Judge

So the Yankees have two rightfielders named Aaron but neither one is Hank . . .

Can’t believe nobody signed innings-eating pitcher Doug Fister . . .

Many writers believe the best way to speed up games is to can the music that greets every batter as he steps into the batter’s box . . .

Speaking of music, it’s time to lower the decibel levels everywhere but Wrigley Field and Fenway Park . . .

With no mass transit available, the Braves had to change the starting time of home night games at the suburban Sun Trust Park, their new home . . .

Donald Trump rejected an invitation from the Washington Nationals to throw out the first pitch, ostensibly because he didn’t want to be booed.

About Dan Schlossberg

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has produced 35 baseball books, including autobiographies of Ron Blomberg, Al Clark, and Milo Hamilton. Also a broadcaster, he is the host and executive producer of Braves Banter and Travel Itch Radio and a contributor to Sirius XM.

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