Jacobs on the comeback trail

In the battle for the honor of backing up Mike Piazza this season, Mike Jacobs stands by as an idle observer, happy to catch bullpen sessions and get his game action whenever possible. <P> Yes, letting Jason Phillips and Ramon Castro slug it out for an April trip to New York suits the 24-year-old catcher just fine. Widely regarded as the top catching prospect in the Mets' system, Jacobs has his eyes on somewhat bigger sights.

"I still think I'm next in line," Jacobs said. "I think, if I wouldn't have got hurt last year, I'd be set up real nice coming into this year. At the same time, I definitely still think I need to get to Triple-A and get some playing time. But I definitely think I'm headed for the majors."

After hitting .329 with 17 home runs and 81 RBI for the Binghamton (AA) Mets in 2003, Jacobs appeared to be on the fast track to New York. He was honored as the organization's Minor League Player of the Year as the season wound down, and was soon invited to show his offensive and defensive wares for a third straight season in big league camp.

Though the Mets were more than set at the catching position with Vance Wilson and Phillips on board, Jacobs nevertheless set out to continue impressing manager Art Howe and his coaching staff.

He was on the path to doing just that, garnering raves with his gritty demeanor behind the plate, until a series of freak injuries curtailed his development during last year's spring training.

"I got into bed one night, and I remember just laying there, with my arm aching," Jacobs said. "I thought to myself, 'Man, what is that?' I went out and played the next day, and the pain wound up keeping me up all night."

Jacobs trudged into the trainer's office at Tradition Field and submitted to a MRI, which soon revealed a 35 percent tear of the labrum in his right shoulder. No matter, the Mets said – plenty of players are able to perform with partially torn labrums (Pedro Martinez, for one, has made a pretty good living doing just that over the last several years).

With his chances at making the major league roster predictably scrapped, Jacobs reported to Triple-A Norfolk for the International League schedule, but his body wouldn't cooperate. His strength sapped by what would later be diagnosed as a cyst in the right shoulder, Jacobs hit just .177 with two home runs and six RBI in 96 at-bats for the Tides before shutting his season down for surgery in mid-May.

Sitting in the clubhouse in Port St. Lucie once again, Jacobs says he's recovered to about 90 percent strength, and has no real intention of campaigning for the big league club. His main focus in this camp is planting a seed in the minds of manager Willie Randolph, coaches and executives, just as he'd done over the last two springs with Howe's regime.

"Obviously we've got some new guys in the organization," Jacobs said. "There's coaches and guys who've never seen me play. I kind of assume the same position I was in last year, coming in and trying to open up some eyes."

Of course, he may not need to. With Piazza's contract with the Mets up after this year, and the organization reportedly down on Phillips after his .218 performance last year, Jacobs appears to be the natural choice to become the next everyday catcher in New York.

"The rehab was long," Jacobs recalls. "I'd never been hurt before playing baseball, and being out for the last four or five months of the season was tough. I started rehabbing pretty much every day. It's been a long process, but I feel like I've put my time in. I feel like I'm ready to go."


Amazin Clubhouse Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\n\"I still think I'm next in line,\" Jacobs said. \"I think, if I wouldn't have got hurt last year, I'd be set up real nice coming into this year. At the same time, I definitely still think I need to get to Triple-A and get some playing time. But I definitely think I'm headed for the majors.\"\r\n

\r\nAfter hitting .329 with 17 home runs and 81 RBI for the Binghamton (AA) Mets in 2003, Jacobs appeared to be on the fast track to New York. He was honored as the organization's Minor League Player of the Year as the season wound down, and was soon invited to show his offensive and defensive wares for a third straight season in big league camp.\r\n

\r\nThough the Mets were more than set at the catching position with Vance Wilson and Phillips on board, Jacobs nevertheless set out to continue impressing manager Art Howe and his coaching staff. \r\n

\r\nHe was on the path to doing just that, garnering raves with his gritty demeanor behind the plate, until a series of freak injuries curtailed his development during last year's spring training.\r\n

\r\n\"I got into bed one night, and I remember just laying there, with my arm aching,\" Jacobs said. \"I thought to myself, 'Man, what is that?' I went out and played the next day, and the pain wound up keeping me up all night.\"\r\n

\r\nJacobs trudged into the trainer's office at Tradition Field and submitted to a MRI, which soon revealed a 35 percent tear of the labrum in his right shoulder. No matter, the Mets said – plenty of players are able to perform with partially torn labrums (Pedro Martinez, for one, has made a pretty good living doing just that over the last several years).\r\n

\r\nWith his chances at making the major league roster predictably scrapped, Jacobs reported to Triple-A Norfolk for the International League schedule, but his body wouldn't cooperate. His strength sapped by what would later be diagnosed as a cyst in the right shoulder, Jacobs hit just .177 with two home runs and six RBI in 96 at-bats for the Tides before shutting his season down for surgery in mid-May.\r\n

\r\nSitting in the clubhouse in Port St. Lucie once again, Jacobs says he's recovered to about 90 percent strength, and has no real intention of campaigning for the big league club. His main focus in this camp is planting a seed in the minds of manager Willie Randolph, coaches and executives, just as he'd done over the last two springs with Howe's regime.\r\n

\r\n\"Obviously we've got some new guys in the organization,\" Jacobs said. \"There's coaches and guys who've never seen me play. I kind of assume the same position I was in last year, coming in and trying to open up some eyes.\"\r\n

\r\nOf course, he may not need to. With Piazza's contract with the Mets up after this year, and the organization reportedly down on Phillips after his .218 performance last year, Jacobs appears to be the natural choice to become the next everyday catcher in New York.\r\n

\r\n\"The rehab was long,\" Jacobs recalls. \"I'd never been hurt before playing baseball, and being out for the last four or five months of the season was tough. I started rehabbing pretty much every day. It's been a long process, but I feel like I've put my time in. 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