Archive for Met Mysteries

Blas From the Past

It’d been bothering me for a few days now that after assembling the below list of Met 34s, I’d come across yet another instance where our humble record here and the posted info as Baseball-reference came into conflict.

This time? It’s Blas Minor, identified as having worn No. 55 for the Mets in 1995.

I’m going dispense with the mystery right here and now and say it: This never happened.

Minor was wearing 34 for the Mets when 1995 camp broke, he wore it for three innings on the mound in Denver for opening day, and coach Frank Howard occupied No. 55 not only for all of that year but for the entirety of Minor’s career as a Met.

The Record newspaper season preview, April 23, 1995. Opening day was April 26.

Well why then? As we’ve noted in the past bbr seems to have imported their uni-data from Jack Looney’s book NOW BATTING NUMBER. That work literally has about 12 pounds of impressive research but it’s not nearly as precise as it could be. Multiple number issues in a season aren’t presented in sequence, for example. In Minor’s case, the 55 reference in the book is noted as (INJ), or injured. This could refer to the period that season that he spent on the disabled list or perhaps in a minor league rehab start, but there’s no record of that either. He never wore 55 in a Mets game.

It’s a Minor error, for sure.

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The Matlack Mets Murder Mystery of 1970

Jon Matlack, the nasty lefty whose stuff was way more effective than his record ever reflected, is finally getting the recognition he deserves.

Matlack, from SABR: https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/c0ddd500

The Mets announced earlier this year that Matlack was among three deserving new enrollees in the club’s oft-neglected Hall of Fame: Edgardo Alfonzo and Ron Darling are the other two.

The starting rotation onto which Matlack earned his way in 1972 wasn’t an easy one to crack. The 17-year-old first-round draft pick out of West Chester, Pa. in 1967 (4th in the country that year) had the mixed blessing of coming around at a time when slightly older contemporaries like Seaver, Koosman, Gentry and Ryan were just establishing themselves as big-league youngsters with the Mets and so he spent nearly three full seasons at AAA waiting his turn.

Interestingly Matlack got a look with the September callups of 1970, but never appeared in a game. What number did he wear then? Well, that depends on where you looked–and when.

The Daily News announced his arrival on September 3 that year and indicated that Matlack had been assigned No. 27.

As often accompanies these mysteries the Mets were on the road at the time in St. Louis and en route to Chicago, where sure enough Matlack appeared on a scorecard roster from that series in Wrigley– only this time listed as No. 50:

Back in New York, a scorecard accompanying the Sept. 10 game at Shea lists Matlack wearing neither 27 nor 50, but 35. We’ve has this record for some time and consider it the unoffical official record: Matlack was in uniform and active but simply didn’t appear.

Interestingly if you read the Daily News clip above–one hell of a notes column with Cool Papa Bell making an appearance–you’ll also get the whisper that GM Bob Scheffing was in the process of shopping for an unnamed veteran pitcher who needed to clear waivers. This is because the defending world champs were in a dogfight for a division crown at the time with Pittsburgh and Chicago. The Mets reportedly were seeking Yankees’ veteran lefty Steve Hamilton but they were blocked when the White Sox made a deal for him. Instead they scooped up Dean Chance from Cleveland.

This is notable for our tale because Chance was assigned No. 27. He also played a crucial role in the Mets’ ultimate shortcoming in that pennant race. Chance’s first Mets’ appearance came in the 10th inning of game 2 of a doubleheader with division-leading Pittsburgh on Sept. 20. The Mets won Game 1, but Dean blew his Chance, so to speak. Called on to relieve Tug McGraw with a runner on second, one out and 1 run in giving the Pirates a 6-5 lead, Chance intentionally walked Dave Cash, gave up a 2-run triple to light-hitting Gene Alley, then a squeeze bunt from Dave Guisti. The 4-run rally was more than enough and the Mets never got closer in the race.

Matlack, presumably wearing No. 35, watched it all from the bullpen and wouldn’t participate in meaningful Mets baseball until a star turn in the 1973 playoffs. In spring training of 1971, Matlack was again wearing No. 35:

But by the time he got a call to the Mets in July, 35 was on the back of teammate Charlie Williams and so Matlack was issued No. 32, with which he made his big-league debut and would wear to a Rookie-of-the-Year performance in 1972, the aforementioned dominance in the 1973 postseason, and All-Star appearances in 1974, 1975 and 1976, before the diminishing Mets traded him to Texas following a disappointing performance in 1977. Matlack spent six seasons in Texas including an excellent 1978 (15-13, 2.27, 270 innings and 18 complete games), and later went on to star in the Senior League in 1990, and coach for several organizations.

Forty-three years later, Matlack is coming back to where he belongs.

 

 

 

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2020 Vision

Today came word that the Mets inked veteran sluggo Matt Adams to a minor league deal and invited him to spring training. Whether he winds up a 40-homer hitter in Syracuse or Pete Alonso’s caddy will depend I suspect on whatever Chief Brody has up his sleeve still. I wanna think they have some plans to move things around still (Dom Smith and Cesedes for Arenado?) Who knows.

But with the understanding things are still very fluid, let’s take the first crack at a 2020 numerical roster. Note we’re still awaiting assignments for several coaches (Jeremy Hefner, Tony DeFrancesco); unassigned 40-men players (Ali Sanchez); and non-roster invitees (Adams, Matt Blackham, Ryley Gilliam, Pedro Payano, Francisco Rios, Chasen Shreve, Kevin Smith and Adonis Uceta — and probably several more)… also note there are currently two guys assigned No. 60.

Number Name Notes
0 Marcus Stroman, P was 7
1 Amed Rosario, SS
2 Dom Smith, IB-OF was 22
3 Tomas Nido, C
4 Jed Lowrie, INF
5 vacant David Wright
6 Jeff McNeil, INF-OF
7 vacant was Marcus Stroman
8 Vacant Unassigned (Gary Carter)
9 Brandon Nimmo, OF
10 Gary DiSarcina, CH 1st base coach
11 Vacant was Ruben Tejada
12 Vacant was Juan Lagares
13 Luis Guillorme, INF Was Asbrubal Cabrera
14 Retired Gil Hodges
15 Vacant was Carlos Beltran
16 Jake Marisnick, OF
17 Vacant unassigned (Keith Hernandez)
18 vacant was Rajai Davis
19 Luis Rojas, MGR Was Sam Haggarty
20 Pete Alonso, 1B
21 Vacant was Todd Frazier
22 Rick Porcello, P was Dom Smith
23 vacant was Aaron Altherr
24 Robinson Cano, 2B
25 Ricky Bones, CH bullpen coach
26 Vacant was Mickey Callaway
27 Jeurys Familia, P
28 JD Davis, INF-OF
29 Brad Brach, P
30 Michael Conforto, OF
31 Retired Mike Piazza
32 Steven Matz, P
33 vacant was Hector Santiago
34 Noah Syndergaard, P
35 Jacob Rhame, P
36 Retiring Jerry Koosman
37 Retired Casey Stengel
38 Justin Wilson, P
39 Edwin Diaz, P
40 Wilson Ramos, C
41 Retired Tom Seaver
42 Retired Jackie Robinson
43 Vacant was Luis Avilan
44 vacant/Rene Rivera, C? was Rivera (now NRI)
45 Michael Wacha,P was Zack Wheeler
46 vacant was Brooks Pounders
47 vacant was Drew Gagnon
48 Jacob deGrom, P
49 Tyler Bashlor, P
50 vacant was Jim Riggleman, CH
51 Paul Sewald, P
52 Yoenis Cespedes, OF
53 vacant was Glenn Sherlock, CH
54 Chili Davis, CH hitting coach
55 Corey Oswalt, P
56 Tom Slater, CH Assistant hitting coach
57 Dave Racianello, CH Bullpen catcher
58 Hensley Muelens, CH Bench coach
59 Steven Gonsalves, P was Chuck Hernandez, CH
60* Jeremy Accardo, CH assistant pitching coach
60* Andres Gimenez, INF NRI
61 Walker Lockett, P
62 Drew Smith, P
63 Thomas Szapucki, P was Tim Petersen
64 Jordan Humphreys, P was Chris Flexen
65 Robert Gsellman, P
66 Franklyn Kilome, P
67 Seth Lugo, P
68 Dellin Betances, P
69 Vacant
70 Eric Hanhold, P
71 vacant
72 Steven Nogosek, P NRI
73 Daniel Zamora, P
74 vacant Ali Sanchez, C?
75 vacant
76 vacant Patrick Mazeika, C?
77 David Peterson, P
78 Eric Langill, CH Bullpen catcher
79 vacant
80 vacant
81 vacant
82 vacant
83 Stephen Villines, P?
84 vacant Ryder Ryan, P?
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Coming Up Rojas

Since our last update you must be well aware the Mets were secondary effect victims of the Houston cheating scandal and so beat Carlos Beltran out of town like a bat into a trash can. As you know I wasn’t exactly on board with Beltran to start with, so while it all looks wobbly for the Mets the pivot to Luis Rojas probably isn’t all bad. I could see a small danger in providing a rookie skipper so little time to prepare for his first Spring Training–I tend to believe that smooth springs are a sign, if not the only sign, of good things ahead–and am aware of how poor starts in both his years were among the things that doomed Mickey Callaway’s clubs so count me as cautiously optimistic.

Rojas has good lineage–he’s among 10 children of Felipe Alou (he’s a product of his 3rd of his four wives, making him a half-brother of one-time Met Moises Alou, a nephew of one-time Met Jesus Alou, and a half-cousin of one-time Met Mel Rojas, himself a half-brother to Felipe, Jesus and Matty). “Alou” was Felipe’s mother’s last name and was “assigned” that when his father’s surname Rojas was lost in translation, yet passed along to Luis. Mel took his father’s name as he was born of a different mother than the Alou siblings. Got that?

Now, what number will he wear? Rojas in previous outings with the Mets has worn No. 60 as a guest coach and last year, a “quality control” coach. A look at the developing Mets roster would suggest however that 60 is assigned currently to both Rojas and assistant pitching coach Jeremy Accardo. We’ll figure it all out soon I hope.

Speaking now of the roster, that’s also coming into play… a little. In addition to Rojas coaches Jeremy Hefner, Tony DeFrancesco and Hensely Muelens have yet to be assigned, as have new 40-man arrivals Stephen Gonsalves, Jordan Humpheys, Thomas Szapuki, Ali Sanchez and Andres Gimenez, so I’ll stop short of publishing a full spring roster quite yet.

But I am noting the following new assignments: Jake Marisnick in 16; Rick Porcello in 22, conflicting for the moment with Dom Smith; and Michael Wacha in 45. Hopefully they they figure it all out by Spring Training.

*

Do you collect scorecards? I’m teaming up with a longtime MBTN benefactor to inventory our source materials (for me, all pre-1999 as this site has kept track since then). The collection, inspired in part by the Andy Hassler mystery mentioned below, has already turned up some very interesting new wrinkles which I’ll share with you all soon, one of them about the newest Met Hall of Famer, Jon Matlack. If you have old scorecards and want to help, do me a big solid and shoot the roster page, note the date to the best of your ability and send it in!

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Street Hassle

I probably should have investigated this before the man was dead, but didn’t realize till just now that Andy Hassler is among those Mets who purportedly have worn another number than the one listed here for him.

Game-worn Hassler jersey

Hassler, a lefty whom the Mets acquired at the ’79 June trade deadline from Boston, and who sadly just died at age 68, wore the number 44 jersey pictured here (found this pic on an online auction site, reportedly it’s game-worn). But the shirt I was looking for would bear No. 50, one of two Mets numbers listed as having been worn by Hassler at the Baseball Reference site (bbr appears to use Jack Looney’s NOW BATTING, NUMBER… as a reference. Neither is precise enough to identify the times and dates worn).

Orosco’s debut, opening day 1979 (Bill Buckner batting!)

While anything is possible, I’m fairly confident Hassler didn’t wear No. 50. For one thing that would have made him the very first position player ever to have been issued a number in the 50s for the Mets (as noted here before, it wasn’t until 1980 that the Mets started goofing around like that, even though Jesse Orosco earlier that year broke the 60s cherry). For another it would counter plenty of memories and photos and rosters showing Hassler wearing 44.

Hassler was a Met only through the end of that 1979 year so pickings are slim. If he did wear 50, it would likely have been in his June 19 debut at Houston (occasionally when the Mets were traveling back then a debut player might be issued a number he wouldn’t wear once the club returned home, like Tom Hall wearing No. 42). Would the ’79 Mets be traveling with a spare No. 50 jersey? Perhaps, were they planning to fire a coach but I don’t see an obvious occasion for it.

Do you know something? Please let me know! I know there are several of these mysteries out there still.

As to Hassler, he was acquired on the same day the Mets picked up Dock Ellis in a separate trade, an admission that the pre-season gamble of going with young guys like Orosco over costlier rejects like Nelson Briles that spring had failed. Hassler was just off having hospitalized once-and-future Met Mike Jorgensen with a ball off the noggin. For the Mets he was a swingman with a good curve but poor control and ultimately allowed to leave as a free agent.

 

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Addition By Subtraction

Sorry for the dearth of posts lately! Among other things, the MBTN Headquarters building moved to Queens from Brooklyn after 15 years. Like Carlos Beltran, this is a return engagement in the boro: MBTN, now approaching its 21st birthday was born in Manhattan and moved to Queens shortly thereafter, decamping for Brooklyn in 2004.

Also, how can I say this? It hasn’t been a very inspiring offseason yet, unless you are a fan of addition by subtraction. By this I mean the Wilpons and not Zack Wheeler. Five years by my estimation is way too many (for the Wilpons, not Zack Wheeler). That, and the silly chatter on ugly black uniforms, idiotic threats of trading Brandon Nimmo for Starling Marte, and the latest Yoenis Cespedes kerfluffle… So far, yuck.

I’ll miss Zack Wheeler, who departs New York as the Mets’ all-time strikeout king among guys who wore #45 (and 12th among wearers of any Met uniform). He was second to Tug McGraw in win s and innings; and second to Mark Carreon in hits, doubles, runs, home runs, and RBI. He was a good player and I especially don’t like that he wound up in Philly.

To replace him, the Mets have signed two down-on-their-luck veterans, both of whom believe they’re going to be starters, begging the question as to who’ll be the odd man out among the returnees. I could probably get behind Steven Matz going the bullpen but not sure if that’s what the club has in mind. Perhaps they’ll copy other clubs and do “bullpen games.” The new guys are Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha.

As relayed in the comments by MBTN reader Richard, Wacha wore No. 52 with the Cardinals, which is not available if Yoenis Cespeds overcomes whatever foolish activity he took up while rehabbing and cost himself millions. Wacha wore No. 38 at Texas A&M, but that’s taken by Justin Wilson.  I’m pencilling him in to wear 45. Shudder.

Porcello wore No. 22 on the Red Sox and prior to that, Nos. 21 and 48 with the Tigers. Richard relayed: “My guess is he takes #21 since Todd Frazier won’t return. He could also take #22 if Dom Smith is traded.” I’m on board with 21 myself seeing as Porcello also replaces Frazier as the obligatory resident New Jersey guy, and I don’t want to trade Dom Smith. I almost wanna trade Alonso instead: Bigger reward, worse glove, even a little older, and I think it’s going to be hard to match the magnificence of his 2019 year (Alonso, not Smith). No way though will the Mets have the stones to try that.

In the outfield the Mets have added ex-Astros speedster Jake Marisnick, who looks as though he’ll take over Juan Lagares’ role as the right-handed hitting, glove-first, pinch-running, late-inning-defensing center fielder. Marisnick wore No. 6 in Houston; with Jeff McNeil occupying that now let’s pencil in Jake as No. 12.

A bunch of other guys have also arrived, re-upped and departed. Brad Brach is back (No. 29) after a handful of decent bullpen appearances last year. New to the 40-man roster and looking for uni assignments are pitchers Stephen Gonsalves, who wore No. 59 in a couple of appearances with the Twins two years ago; and minor-leaguers Jordan Humpheys and Thomas Szapucki; catcher Ali Sanchez and infield prospect Andres Gimenez.

We can also cut official ties with Lagares (12); Wheeler (45); Kevin Kaczmarski (16); Aaron Altherr (23); Drew Gagnon (47); Chris Flexen (64) and Chris Mazza (74). Another 40-man cut is coming when they add Porcello.

New coaches? We have them too. Jeremy Hefner (remember him?) wore the coachly No. 53 as a Met back in 2014; he could take that over from departing first-base coach Glenn Sherlock. We’ve also added Hensley Meulens as the bench coach. Meulens wore No. 31 (I think) in the same role for the Giants last year and so would need a new assignment, as will new first-base coach Tony DeFrancesco. The remarkable Phil Regan (No. 58) is out as pitching coach.

We’ll build a winter roster soon! Much still to do though.

 

 

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Str0man

We got one right for a change. Pitcher Marcus Stroman revealed in a tweet that he would wear the rarely-issued No. 0 jersey in 2020, switching from the 7 he’d originally selected but preferred not to wear because he felt it would interfere with memory of Jose Reyes.

We covered the dubious reasoning below and even correctly predicted his new landing spot but wish Marcus the best of luck in his new jersey and hope that in addition to becoming the 1st, 2nd and now 3rd Met pitcher ever to wear a single-digit uni number he makes other team history as well. Among Zeros, he joins Terry McDaniel (1991), Rey Ordonez (1996-97) and most recently, Omar Quintanilla (2014).

In other matters for someone not entirely comfortable with the selection of a new manager, the news that Carlos Beltran reportedly played a role in the creation of Houston’s cheat scheme is a mixed message at best. If they knew it must have been a factor in the decision to hire him. If they didn’t, it’s a black eye for Carlos before making a spring training lineup. Same old Mets?

We’ll see what Chief Brodie does in his second visit to the Hot Stove in the weeks ahead but between us I’d be pleased were we to retain Zack Wheeler then figure out what to do next. It’s been signaled that the Mets are shopping for a real center fielder, which to me seems like a pretty good idea, while upgrading the defense behind the plate would also help.

Keeping an open mind and terrified as usual.

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Playing Bogar

The Mets appear to be narrowing the list of managerial candidates to succeed Mickey Callaway, with second interviews reportedly granted to Joe Girardi, Carlos Beltran, Eduardo Perez, Luis Rojas and Tim Bogar.

While the buzz until very recently would have Girardi as the favorite, reports indicate he may even have stronger internal support in Philadelphia, where the ex-Yankee and Marlin skipper has also interviewed.

Count me among those suspicious of Beltran, whom I liked enough as a player but whose history with the club for all its success wasn’t terrific, particularly in the realm of communication, and despite how seemingly easy it’s been for reporters to find folks to say all the right things about him. The other argument I’ve heard for Beltran is this idea that he’s the only man alive who could possibly get Yoenis Cespedes to contribute. I simply don’t believe that on its face.

Speaking of fanciful notions there are perspective-challenged fans out there  threatening mutiny if Girardi doesn’t come aboard; I’m sure the fact he’s been hired twice and interviewed by two clubs this time around speaks for his general acceptability for the role but it’s never as though there’s only one possibility. If the Phillies want him so bad, make him rich.

I don’t have much of an opinion of Eduardo Perez as a guy or a broadcaster, and all I can say about Luis Rojas is that the organization thinks highly of him, given how frequently he’s appeared in the dugout wearing weird numbers over the years.

And that brings us to Tim Bogar.

Tim Bogar? Why not?

He’ll be coming to the organization with the pixie dust of the Houston Washington juggernaut. His “experience” managing a big-league club is limited to 22 games– he was interim skipper for the 2014 Rangers following the firing of Ron Washington in 2014 and Texas went 14-8 under him (.636 winning percentage-a 103-win pace!!), but he’s a three-time minor league manager of the year and is well-thought of enough to have been in the employ as coach of good big-league teams like the Astros and Red Sox. Bogar also has front-office experience, serving his ex-Met teammate Jerry DiPoto when DiPoto GM’ed the Angels.

Though DiPoto’s reign in Anaheim ended amid friction with manager Mike Scioscia, DiPoto reappeared in Seattle and sent for Bogar who was named bench coach to Scott Servias. So one could argue Bogar has experience helping Robinson Cano have a productive year.

Finally, Bogar for all his seeming lack of sex appeal, is a Met–drafted by the club in 1987, and eventually making it to New York as a righthanded hitting, noodle-bat utility player/”emergency catcher” who lasted the entire Dallas Green era and the beginnings of the Bobby Valentine one, before being traded during spring training in 1997. (Interesting to note that as a coach in Boston, Bogar was said to have not gotten along with Valentine there either). Bogar you may remember wore No. 23 as a Met but surrendered that jersey in 1996 when the club acquired Bernard Gilkey and wore 11 that year.

But even Bogar’s trade–to Houston for Luis Lopez–paid ongoing dividends for the club as that deal was the seed in a still-flourishing trade tree that yielded Noah Syndergaard. Let’s follow it:

In 1997 Bogar was traded to Houston for Luis Lopez, who was traded in 2000 to Milwaukee for Bill Pulsipher, who was traded to Arizona later that year for Lenny Harris, who was swapped in 2001 to Milwaukee for Jeromy Burnitz, whose 2003 trade to Los Angeles yielded Victor Diaz, who in 2006 was traded for catcher Mike Nickeas. Nickeas remarkably lasted long enough in the organization to make the Mets in 2010 and was included in the earthshattering R.A. Dickey trade to Toronto in 2012, a deal yielding Travis d’Arnaud (whose branch died upon his release this year) and Noah Syndergaard.

Tim Bogar for manager!

Title inspiration by the magnificent skinny-tie new waving power poppers Any Trouble (1980):

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Marcus Down As Undecided

Marcus Stroman, who already made club history by becoming the team’s first pitcher to wear a single-digit uni number, will be making more news soon.

Stroman says will no longer wear the No. 7 he was issued upon his trade to the Mets from Toronto in July, saying that he didn’t feel right playing in the same uni as a childhood idol Jose Reyes.

Obviously we all want Stroman to wear what he’s most comfortable wearing but in the bigger picture I’m wondering whether this notion of respect has gone completely overboard. It has always seemed to me that you could argue just as persuasively that wearing the same number your idol did on the same field would be the ultimate way to pay respect, and that pointedly avoiding a number for that reason in particular, while admirable, is an awfully passive statement in practice.

I’m also left to wonder what this will mean to the newly respect-sensitive Mets and their plans to take an untold batch of jerseys out of circulation in coming years. This began only recently with the deserving but curious announcement they would hang up 36 next year. Who knows if the Mets stay on task with this, but you figure such an approach would have to include Ed Kranepool at some point, a different No. 7.

Until then though, you wonder if the club will now have the stones to issue anybody No. 7 as long as Stroman is on board. Did he inadvertently just mothball No. 7 teamwide? Let’s wait and see.

Let’s also wait and see what Stroman finally settles on. Will he continue to buck tradition and take a single digit? If so there’s but two choices and a similarly wobbly third: Zero is available now; 2 belongs to the free-agent-to-be-but-I’d-sure-love-to-be-back infielder Joe Panik; and then there’s 8, which has gone unissued now for 17 years (!!) as the Mets seemingly make up their minds on Gary Carter’s legacy (If you’re listening Mets, don’t do it. Name the St. Lucie minor league team the Kids instead. Give out a Gary Carter Award every year for the team’s best citizen. Don’t take out numbers for guys with 2 good years on the club and more concrete legacies elsewhere).

Stroman’s Toronto No. 6 belongs now to Jeff McNeil and Stroman said he wouldn’t ask for that. I’ll bet you a beer he’s the next 0.

 

 

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Choice Cuts

So our old friend Carlos Gomez is in camp wearing No. 85, which happened to be the lowest number available, although roster cuts and reassignments should free up additional space as opening day nears. Already there’s been 13 reassignments and yesterday news came that TJ Rivera had been cut and also released.

This is not a big surprise as Rivera was a one-tool longshot before he missed a year with an injury, but his release frees up No. 19 if anyone wants it. I assume it won’t be long before Dilson Hererra is reassigned and coughs up No. 16; then there’s Gregor Blanco (7) and Rajai Davis (11) who suddenly look more vulnerable now that Gomez is back. In case you’ve forgotten Gomez wore No. 27 in his first appearances as a Met back in 2007. His return suggests to me that Omar Minaya is possibly making the personnel decisions again and just relying on Brodie Van Wagenen to say the right things to the press about them. That’s not a good feeling.

Among pitchers, keep an eye on No. 26, where nonroster invitee Arquimedes Caminero has a 16.20 ERA so far (in a really small sample) but appears to need to beat out one or more better-performing counterparts like Hector Santiago (46), Luis Avilan (43) and Rule 5er Kyle Dowdy (33) who’s going to get every chance despite a Camineroesque ERA so far this spring.

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