Last night, former teammates Jacob deGrom and Bartolo Colon matched up at Citi Field to the delight of me and 28,112 other fans at the park and to the larger baseball world watching on TV.
DeGrom was brilliant, hitting 98 mph on the radar gun and holding the Braves scoreless for six innings while allowing two hits and striking out six.
But somehow Colon managed to outshine the Mets’ star. Fans came out to see Colon, giving him a standing ovation during his first at-bat. The Mets realized the significance of the moment and produced a video tribute to Colon they showed before the start of the game.
Mets’ hitters were just as baffled by Colon as most of the National League was during his three-year tenure in New York. Jay Bruce hit a solo home run in the fifth inning. Yoenis Cespedes managed a single. That was it. The pitcher’s duel was delivered as advertised.
Except this is 2017, and starting pitchers are done after six innings. Terry Collins pulled deGrom after 95 pitches. Brian Snitker lifted Colon for a pinch hitter after just 80 pitches.
The Mets start the season with significantly better odds of winning the World Series than the Atlanta Braves, but after the first two games of the season it looks like they share a common weakness – their bullpens. Hansel Robles‘ seventh inning meltdown last night wasn’t as spectacular as Eric O’Flaherty‘s on Opening Day, but it was enough to allow the Braves to tie the game before Jerry Blevins came in to bail him out.
The two teams continued to match zeroes as the temperature dropped and the crowd diminished, until Rafael Montero gave up a leadoff single to Braves catcher Kurt Suzuki in the top of the twelfth. After striking out Jace Peterson, Montero walked Ender Inciarte. When Dansby Swanson grounded out weakly to first base, I started to hope Montero could escape from the jam. But he couldn’t get Matt Kemp out to end the inning – his two-run double provided the Braves with their margin of victory.
It’s worth keeping in mind that Montero is the next man up if anything happens to one of the Mets’ starting five.
A few weeks ago, we were all talking about the Mets’ starting pitching depth and debating who should get the last spot in the rotation. Now Sandy Alderson is beginning to “sniff around” for starting pitching depth and Seth Lugo is trying to remain optimistic about avoiding Tommy John surgery for his partially torn ulnar collateral ligament.
Kelly Johnson is a 10-year MLB veteran who spent the majority of his career as an Atlanta Brave. Just before the trade deadline last year, the Mets sent two minor league pitchers to Atlanta for Johnson and Juan Uribe. The move strengthened the Mets’ lineup, though it was overshadowed by Sandy Alderson‘s subsequent trade for Yoenis Cespedes.
Johnson played in 49 regular season games for the 2015 National League champions, appearing at all four infield spots and the two corner outfield positions. He hit .250 with five home runs and one stolen base. In the playoffs, Johnson was limited to a reserve role where he was not a major factor for the Mets.
Although there had been some thought that the Mets would make an attempt to re-sign Johnson this winter, as the off-season developed it became clear that there was not room for him on the Mets’ roster. He signed a one-year contract with the Atlanta Braves last month, beginning his third tour of duty with the club that drafted him.
Johnson does appear as a Met in last year’s Topps Update set, but I don’t know that I will have an opportunity to get a copy of that baseball card signed. For now, he is represented in my collection via this 2010 Upper Deck insert, which I purchased for $1.70.
With the start of spring training just days away, we’ve reached the point in the off-season where free agents get ready to take minor league contracts with invitations to major league camp.
On Wednesday, former Mets reliever Carlos Torres signed with the Atlanta Braves organization.
Today, former Mets reliever Eric O’Flaherty signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates organization.
And former Mets first baseman Ike Davis has been approached by the New York Yankees, who find themselves in need of a regular first baseman in Triple-A as the result of Greg Bird‘s season-ending injury.