It's That Time of Year

By: AP
By: AP

LAKELAND, Fla. (AP) -- Mike Pelfrey knows he needs to pitch well this spring, for two reasons.
First, he hopes to earn a spot in the New York Mets' rotation. Second, he doesn't want to make bus trips all over Florida next spring.
Pelfrey made his 2008 debut Wednesday in a 4-2 loss to the Detroit Tigers, but impressed manager Willie Randolph with two innings in which he allowed one hit and faced the minimum six batters. The right-hander struck out one and left with a confidence boost.
"I don't know if it was a dominating performance, but I know I did a lot of things right," Pelfrey said. "All I wanted to do was be aggressive and throw strikes and that's what I was able to do."
Pelfrey pitched in 15 games for the Mets last season, going 3-8 with a 5.57 ERA. He struggled with his control and confidence, spending about half the season in Triple-A. He doesn't want to go back there this year, but might have to if New York's other starters stay healthy.
Pelfrey projects sixth in a five-man rotation that includes Johan Santana, Pedro Martinez, John Maine, Oliver Perez and Orlando Hernandez.
"I went two scoreless innings and I was doing everything I wanted," said Pelfrey, the ninth overall pick in the 2005 amateur draft. "I just wanted to locate my fastball. That's what sets batters up for sliders and changeups."
Matt Wise, just acquired from Milwaukee, kept Pelfrey's attitude in check.
"I thought we were supposed to run together," Wise said. "He goes two innings like that and he doesn't have time for the rest of us anymore."
Pelfrey said in two years with the Mets, he has only had to ride the bus one time to a spring training road game. The Mets train in Port St. Lucie, about a two-hour drive from the Tigers' home in Central Florida, and he said one of the perks of being a bona fide major leaguer is not having to ride the bus. He knows he's on the bubble when it comes to the rotation, but he made an impression on Randolph.
"He was in the zone and he did a lot of good things," Randolph said. "He pitched with the kind of stuff we expect out of him. I like his confidence. With confidence comes success."
Pelfrey is focused on making the rotation.
"I want to be on this team and I want to start for this team," he said. "I want to make their decisions difficult. If I don't make it out of spring training, I will get a chance sometime. My slider is better than last year and if I can just locate my fastball, that sets me up for everything else."
Jeremy Bonderman started for the Tigers and allowed runs in each of the first two innings. After that, Jason Grilli, Zach Miner, Preston Larrison, Tim Byrdak and Denny Bautista shut down the Mets the rest of the way, allowing only two hits over the last seven innings.
Pelfrey, Matt Wise, Brian Stokes, Pedro Feliciano and Jorge Sosa held the Tigers to one hit through six innings, but the Tigers broke loose for four runs in the seventh off Willie Collazo. Non-roster player Wilkin Ramirez had a two-run single and Mike Hessman tripled during the rally.
Notes:@ Tigers LHP Nate Robertson is expected to start Thursday against Toronto, but his wife, Kristin, went into labor Wednesday. Detroit manager Jim Leyland said that if all goes well, Robertson will still start against the Blue Jays. ... Bonderman was limited to throwing fastballs and changeups. Leyland said sliders were off limits. ... The temperature was 59 degrees, but the wind made it seem much colder. ... Tigers slugger Magglio Ordonez was hit by a pitch in the fifth and immediately replaced by a pinch runner. Leyland said that no matter how Ordonez got on base he was coming out anyway, so there are no injury concerns.


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