The Mets’ experiment using Rafael Montero in a one-off start wasn’t a complete failure, but it’s over for now, and Montero is on his way back to Las Vegas. In his places comes Jack Leathersich, a promising chubby lefthanded bullpen strikeout artist making his first appearance in the majors.
Leathersich will become the 23rd man to wear No. 51 but just the fifth position player: It’s a number more closely associated with coaches who wore it exclusively until Mike “He was a Met?” Maddux broke the seal in 1993. It’s since been worn by Mel Rojas and Rick White — like Maddux, they were veteran bullpenners whom the Mets rode hard — and in a one-off deal by Lance Johnson on Mookie Wilson Day in 1996. (Wilson, then coaching in 51; swapped numbers with Johnson that day. Johnson had three hits including a double and a triple that day and so dominates the offensive stats in 51).
The rest of Area 51 are coaches: Roy McMillan wore it while riding out the string managing the 1975 Mets for fired manager Yogi Berra. Pitching guru Rick Peterson reportedly wore 51 but kept it hidden under his buttoned-up jacket for four-and-a-half years. Most recently it went to another influential coach, Dave Hudgens, whose unorthodox hitting philosophy seems to had made a star of Lucas Duda and a pariah of Daniel Murphy. Other noted 51 coaches: Chip Hale, who I was rooting for to get the Met managerial job that went to Terry Collins; Cookie Lavagetto, an original Met coach; and Wes Westrum, who’d switch to No. 9 upon being named Casey Stengel’s successor.
Welcome aboard Jack!
Pitching coach Rick Peterson too and because they can, first-base coach Tom Nieto.
And just when I’d begun to tune out all the rumors.
Stay tuned for the press conference today to see whether Ken Oberkfell, promoted from Norfolk to the big league staff along with pitching coach Dan Warthen and infield coordinator Luis Aguayo, alights again in No. 0, and whether Jerry Manuel’s first move as interim manager is to shed No. 53.
Newly named coach Howard Johnson was spied at Spring Training revealing jersey No. 52 and temporarily ending some wild speculation that he’d finagle his old No. 20 from Shawn Green. The rules of the jersey game clearly pointed to this outcome — coaches don’t take jerseys from players, except when the player happens to be someone like Jeff McKnight. Then, all bets are off.
Thanks to readers Gene and Matt for pointing it out.
Also worth noting: Coach Jerry Manuel is back in No. 53, with spring training invitee Aaron Sele in 35. Manuel, you may recall, was assigned 53 last spring but switched jerseys when Chad Bradford — who’d been assigned 35 — preferred the latter. This restores at least some orderliness on the coaching bench: Sandy Alomar Sr. is still waddling around in No. 2, but the rest of the staff are nice and Rube Walkerly in the 50s — Rick Peterson 51; Hojo 52; Manuel 53; Rick Down 54; Tom Nieto 55; and Guy Conti 56.
Other sightings at Spring Training, as reported by various witnesses: Carlos Gomez in 88 and Fernando Martinez in 67. There have been several photos of recently signed ancient catcher Sandy Alomar Jr. floating around the Met but none in a jersey we’ve seen yet. Let us know if find something.
Marty Noble on the Jose Valentin/Moises Alou “controversy” (I use quotes here because I strongly suspect Valentin has more affection for 22, his number for many years, than for 18,his number for just one. But good Nobling here nonetheless:
Sometime this year, Mets left fielder Moises Alou will receive a bill, the amount of which has yet to be established. It will come from his new teammate, Jose Valentin.“I haven’t decided yet,” Valentin said. “It depends on how well he plays.”
The bill will be compensation for the uniform No. 18, which Valentin surrendered to Alou. Valentin has changed to No. 22 — worn previously by Ray Knight, Donn Clendenon, Kevin McReynolds, Al Leiter and Xavier Nady, among others — to accommodate Alou. Except for his first two games with the Pirates in 1990, when he wore No. 52, Alou has worn No. 18 throughout his career.
Alou’s uncle, Jesus, wore No. 23 with the Mets in 1975.
New pitching coach Rick Peterson has been spied wearing No. 51 and Shane Spencer in 43. Among those wearing a different number than their previous appearances in a Met uniform: Pat Strange in 34 and Jeff Duncan in 10. More whacky numbers available only for a limited time: outfielder Kenny Kelly 0; infielder Victor Diaz 13; catchers Danilo Reynoso 85 and Tony Piazza 91; longshot pitchers Shawn Sedlacek 86; James Baldwin 88 and Scott Erickson 89.
After officially naming Jim Duquette the team’s GM the Duke’s first order of new business was to name Rick Peterson, late of the Athletics, as the Mets new pitching coach. Peterson wrore No. 46 last year in Oakland, but that’s no guarantee of his digits here.
Talks begin this week on players the Mets may acquire. Among those romantically linked to the Mets thus far include centerfielder Mike Cameron (No. 44 on your Mariners’ scorecard); closers Billy Koch of the White Sox (44) and Keith Foulke of Oakland (29); and from Japan, infielders Kazuo Matsui and Tadahito Iguchi (both of whom wear No. 7). Stay tuned (or logged in, or whatever) throughout the Hot Stove season: More updates as they come!