By Jim Dolan
At every Major League Baseball spring training camp, hope springs eternal for players of all skill levels as each major league team evaluates its roster to begin the season in April with a blend of veterans, rookies, trade acquisitions and non-roster invitees.
For this year’s Mets, a number of Brooklyn Cyclones’ alumni are ready to claim a position on the field after three weeks in spring training camp.
Starting out at first base, hard-hitting Ike Davis (Brooklyn 2009) has returned and was a welcome sight to Mets fans, until it was learned that the Arizona State product had contracted Valley Fever, a rare lung infection that wears down stamina. Although Davis is playing regularly, he is taking precautionary rest.
At second base, the Mets are hopeful that they have found a position for Daniel Murphy (Brooklyn 2006) after the Mets’ best contact hitter was injured for the better part of the 2010 and 2011 seasons. Mets third base coach and former Cyclones manager Tim Teufel has worked with Murphy on his footwork at second, and the tutelage appears to be paying off.
With the departure of Jose Reyes to Miami, the Mets are going with last season’s backup — the young, homegrown Reuben Tejada — at shortstop. After his second season with the Mets, Tejada has shown that he can handle the position, but will lack the explosive leadoff capability of his predecessor. Currently, Tejada is nursing a groin pull and hoping to make it to the opening day lineup. Another Met nursing an injury is David Wright, who is slowly returning to third base after straining his rib cage early in spring training.
Another Brooklyn alumnus who looms large is the power-hitting Lucas Duda (Brooklyn 2007), who appears ready to play a full season in right field. The main question for the converted first baseman to answer is whether he can play an adequate outfield to keep his bat in the lineup.
With center fielder Andres Torres coming over from San Francisco in the Angel Pagan deal, the Mets are looking to Torres as a leadoff hitter, but will definitely miss the pop that Reyes brought to the top of the order. In left field, Jason Bay still remains a question mark as he starts off slowly at the plate and still has to impress manager Terry Collins in the third year of his four-year contract.
After spending his first full season behind the plate, homegrown catcher Josh Thole enters this spring having worked with roving catching instructor Bob Natal on his defense. If Thole’s defense can match his offensive potential, fans should be pleased with this converted first baseman’s performance.
gAs far as some midseason help coming from the minors this season, look for second-year minor league RHP Matt Harvey, who is slated to start at Double-A Binghamton, to make a possible appearance in the majors. As a wild card to also contribute, look for Kirk Nieuwenhuis, a 2008 Brooklyn Cyclone who had an impressive start to his spring training until he pulled an oblique. Hitting for average and capable of power along with a good glove, Neiuwenhuis could provide some outfield help should it be needed from Triple-A Buffalo.