A Future Closer in Royce Ring?

Acquired in the Roberto Alomar deal, the Mets have expressed their high hopes for Royce Ring. Could dealing Armando Benitez to the cross-town rival Yankees open the door for the 22-year southpaw?

Ring posted a 1.66 ERA with a 3-0 record in 21.2 innings pitched with the Binghamton Mets, but does Ring have a closer's mentality? He is known for his "give me the ball attitude". Many say he has the mental make up necessary for a closer. His coaches have said that when the game is on the line you can expect that Ring is mentally prepared to come into the game and close it out. He puts fear into his opponents at the plate when they hear his theme music Metallica's "sad but true" come over the P.A system. Lefties are sometimes known to get a little wild but, so far his control does not seem to be a problem. Not only does he have the mental make up of a closer, but he as the most important aspect of pitching: The Arm! His low 90's fastball and changeup is just dismal to hitters.

Royce Ring was apart of the US National team in 2001 and had a microscopic 0.93 ERA. He then graduated from San Diego State with 1.85 ERA in 2002. Afterwards he was selected in the first round of the 2002 Rookie draft by the Chicago White Sox, where he maintained a 2.52 ERA with 19 saves in 36 appearances with the Birmingham Barons. Ring even picked up the save in the Radio Shack Futures All Star game this past season in Chicago before he was traded to the Mets along with Edwin Almonte and Andrew Salvo for the slumping Roberto Alomar. Currently he is named to the 2003 All-Prospect team. Pretty good resume, huh?

The question that now remains is not will he make it to the majors but when will he make it there. Ring is expected to be vital for the Mets next season. Although nobody knows for sure what his role will be, look for him to possibly be a middle relief pitcher or a closer depending on what the Mets see in him during spring training. Ring has some competition in the bullpen and here are a few of the pitchers Ring will be up against. Orber Moreno who had a 1.90 ERA in 52 innings pitched with the Norfolk Tides, Edwin Almonte who had a exceptionally high 5.40 ERA in 51.2 innings pitched (also obtained in the Alomar trade). Even Jason Anderson, the main prospect the Mets gained in the Armando Benitez deal could be a contender with his 2.03 ERA appearing in 16 games with the Tides. One of Ring's biggest competition could come in the direction of fellow lefty Scott Kazmir who many consider to be the Mets "prized possession". Kazmir who sported a 3.27 ERA in 33 innings pitched was a main reason the St. Lucie Mets have won their fourth Florida State league championship in franchise history.

Spring training will be an important time period for Ring to prove to Vern Ruhle and the rest of the Mets coaching staff that he has "The Stuff". He has surely proven that to his teammates at Double A Binghamton. In his relatively short stay his teammates have already nicknamed him "Ringer".

The question others and myself are asking is why wasn't Ring one of the prospects called up this September? He certainly proved that his head is in the right place (unlike Armando Benitez) and that his arm has certainly developed into something special. The Mets may have been able to get a better idea of how he fits into the messy bullpen situation, which now contains inconsistent pitchers such as the 43 year-old John Franco, and the aging Mike Stanton. Some of the new pitching prospects with the exception of Scott Kazmir don't seem as promising either, especially the once raved about Aaron Heliman whose 6.71 ERA hasn't helped the cause.

Will Ring's closer mentality and wicked change-up prove to be a help to the now struggling Mets bullpen? We may know once the arrival of a new spring training and soon a new season rolls around.

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