Squad 51

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!


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