Middle Relievers Not to Be Overlooked

With the second week of the Minor League Baseball season almost complete, there have been quite a few surprising performances thus far, both of the good and the bad variety. While the likes of Lastings Milledge struggles at the plate and Brian Bannister's three straight wins earn most of the press, several Mets' reliever prospects have flown under the radar. <b>(Free Preview of Premium Content)</b>

Middle relief. Who cares, right? Well if there's anything the last couple of weeks of watching the Mets' bullpen has taught us is that we should keep a keen eye on the all important position of the middle reliever. Here's a few of the key performers from the Mets' minor league bullpen that may have gone unnoticed, and they shouldn't!

RHP Juan Padilla will get his shot at the New York Mets' bullpen before too long, especially if he continues to pitch the way has been over the last couple of seasons. Originally drafted by the Twins in the 24th round of the 1998 draft, Padilla was dealt to the Yankees in September of 2003 for Jesse Orosco. While he was a good pitching prospect in his six years with the Twins' organization, Padilla opened many eyes with his brilliant performance with the Columbus Clippers (AAA team for the Yankees) in 2004. Padilla went 2-1 with a 2.02 ERA for the Clippers, holding opposing batters to a .223 average in 58 innings pitched. A big reason for his success is his remarkable control. Padilla walked just six batters in total, two coming via the intentional pass.

Signed by the Mets last November as a minor league free agent, Padilla has picked up right where he left off. He hasn't given up an earned run through his first five relief appearances for the AAA-Norfolk Tides, not to mention he hasn't issued a walk as well. Padilla is effective pitching to both right-handed batters and lefties, but appears especially good against the righties, holding them to a .173 average in the early going. Over his last 25 AAA appearances, Padilla's numbers are off the charts: 29.1 IP, 19 Hits, 3 BB, 33 K's with a 0.31 ERA during that time. Those numbers are simply too good to ignore.

RHP Orlando Roman is a pitcher that has flown under the proverbial radar ever since being drafted by the Mets in the 31st round of the 1999 draft. 19 of his first 23 professional appearances came as a starter before making 88 relief appearances (and just two starts) from 2001-2003. His best year came as a reliever in 2002 for the Capital City Bombers when he went 1-5 with a 2.77 ERA in 45 relief appearances, striking out 100 batters in 78 innings pitched and holding opposing South Atlantic League batters to a .211 batting average.

Despite a track history of success as a short reliever, the Mets moved Roman back to the rotation with the St. Lucie Mets in 2004 where he did an adequate job (4-5, 3.71 ERA). Now back in the bullpen with the Binghamton Mets, Roman has started showing the form he had as a short reliever. He has thrown four straight relief appearances in 2005 and has still not walked a batter in his first ten innings pitched. Opposing Eastern League batters are hitting just .114 off of him, thanks in large part to his .071 average against right-handed pitching. It looks like Roman is better suited in middle relief.

RHP Dan Foli was originally drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 31st round of the 2001 draft and was used as a spot starter and reliever from 2001-2003. His best season in the Cubs' organization came in 2002 when he made 30 relief appearances and just 2 starts for the Lansing Lugnuts, posting a solid 3.16 ERA in 57 innings pitched. The Mets signed Foli in April of 2004 after being released by Chicago and immediately assigned him to Brooklyn to be a part of the Cyclones' bullpen.

A crowded pitching staff, combined with age requirements for the NY-Penn League, forced the Mets to promote Foli to the Capital City Bombers. It was in Capital City where Manager Jack Lind and the Bombers realized Foli might be better suited as a short reliever. Foli responded well, going 1-0 with 2 saves in 17 games for the Bombers. He showed much better control, walking just 11 batters in 30 1/3 innings pitched while striking out 32 batters and holding opposing South Atlantic League batters to a .173 batting average. Now part of a fantastic St. Lucie bullpen, Foli has started off the 2005 season with three straight scoreless appearances and earning his first save of the year against Brevard County last Tuesday. He still has not walked a batter. In his last ten appearances, dating back to last season, Foli's numbers are quite impressive: 17.2 IP, 6 Hits, 0.00 ERA, 4 BB,. 23 K's.

Heralded names like Gaby Hernandez and Matt Durkin, both high draft picks last season, are garnering much of the attention in Hagerstown this season, and with good reason. But arguably the best pitcher on the Hagerstown pitching staff this season has been RHP Chuck Smith. Signed as an undrafted free agent last June, Smith absolutely dominated the Gulf Coast League in 2004, holding opposing batters to a pathetic .138 average while going 4-0 with a 1.06 ERA in seven games for the GCL Mets. Smith went a combined 5-1 with 4 saves and a 2.29 ERA in three stops between the Gulf Coast League, Kingsport, and Brooklyn.

Despite having the added pressure of finding his way as an undrafted free agent, Smith was promoted to the Hagerstown staff this season and he has not missed a beat. He has begun the season with three straight scoreless relief appearances, striking out 10 batters in 9 1/3 innings, and holding opposing batters to a .097 batting average thus far. Though he is just 20 games into his professional career, his numbers are phenomenal: 48.2 IP, 32 Hits, 1.85 ERA, 8 BB, 52 K's.

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Amazin Clubhouse Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\n\r\nMiddle relief. Who cares, right? Well if there's anything the last couple of weeks of watching the Mets' bullpen has taught us is that we should keep a keen eye on the all important position of the middle reliever. Here's a few of the key performers from the Mets' minor league bullpen that may have gone unnoticed, and they shouldn't!
\r\n
\r\nRHP Juan Padilla will get his shot at the New York Mets' bullpen before too long, especially if he continues to pitch the way has been over the last couple of seasons. Originally drafted by the Twins in the 24th round of the 1998 draft, Padilla was dealt to the Yankees in September of 2003 for Jesse Orosco. While he was a good pitching prospect in his six years with the Twins' organization, Padilla opened many eyes with his brilliant performance with the Columbus Clippers (AAA team for the Yankees) in 2004. Padilla went 2-1 with a 2.02 ERA for the Clippers, holding opposing batters to a .223 average in 58 innings pitched. A big reason for his success is his remarkable control. Padilla walked just six batters in total, two coming via the intentional pass.
\r\n
\r\nSigned by the Mets last November as a minor league free agent, Padilla has picked up right where he left off. He hasn't given up an earned run through his first five relief appearances for the AAA-Norfolk Tides, not to mention he hasn't issued a walk as well. Padilla is effective pitching to both right-handed batters and lefties, but appears especially good against the righties, holding them to a .173 average in the early going. Over his last 25 AAA appearances, Padilla's numbers are off the charts: 29.1 IP, 19 Hits, 3 BB, 33 K's with a 0.31 ERA during that time. Those numbers are simply too good to ignore.
\r\n
\r\nRHP Orlando Roman is a pitcher that has flown under the proverbial radar ever since being drafted by the Mets in the 31st round of the 1999 draft. 19 of his first 23 professional appearances came as a starter before making 88 relief appearances (and just two starts) from 2001-2003. His best year came as a reliever in 2002 for the Capital City Bombers when he went 1-5 with a 2.77 ERA in 45 relief appearances, striking out 100 batters in 78 innings pitched and holding opposing South Atlantic League batters to a .211 batting average.
\r\n
\r\nDespite a track history of success as a short reliever, the Mets moved Roman back to the rotation with the St. Lucie Mets in 2004 where he did an adequate job (4-5, 3.71 ERA). Now back in the bullpen with the Binghamton Mets, Roman has started showing the form he had as a short reliever. He has thrown four straight relief appearances in 2005 and has still not walked a batter in his first ten innings pitched. Opposing Eastern League batters are hitting just .114 off of him, thanks in large part to his .071 average against right-handed pitching. It looks like Roman is better suited in middle relief.
\r\n
\r\nRHP Dan Foli was originally drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 31st round of the 2001 draft and was used as a spot starter and reliever from 2001-2003. His best season in the Cubs' organization came in 2002 when he made 30 relief appearances and just 2 starts for the Lansing Lugnuts, posting a solid 3.16 ERA in 57 innings pitched. The Mets signed Foli in April of 2004 after being released by Chicago and immediately assigned him to Brooklyn to be a part of the Cyclones' bullpen.
\r\n
\r\nA crowded pitching staff, combined with age requirements for the NY-Penn League, forced the Mets to promote Foli to the Capital City Bombers. It was in Capital City where Manager Jack Lind and the Bombers realized Foli might be better suited as a short reliever. Foli responded well, going 1-0 with 2 saves in 17 games for the Bombers. He showed much better control, walking just 11 batters in 30 1/3 innings pitched while striking out 32 batters and holding opposing South Atlantic League batters to a .173 batting average. Now part of a fantastic St. Lucie bullpen, Foli has started off the 2005 season with three straight scoreless appearances and earning his first save of the year against Brevard County last Tuesday. He still has not walked a batter. In his last ten appearances, dating back to last season, Foli's numbers are quite impressive: 17.2 IP, 6 Hits, 0.00 ERA, 4 BB,. 23 K's.\r\n
\r\n
\r\nHeralded names like Gaby Hernandez and Matt Durkin, both high draft picks last season, are garnering much of the attention in Hagerstown this season, and with good reason. But arguably the best pitcher on the Hagerstown pitching staff this season has been RHP Chuck Smith. Signed as an undrafted free agent last June, Smith absolutely dominated the Gulf Coast League in 2004, holding opposing batters to a pathetic .138 average while going 4-0 with a 1.06 ERA in seven games for the GCL Mets. Smith went a combined 5-1 with 4 saves and a 2.29 ERA in three stops between the Gulf Coast League, Kingsport, and Brooklyn.
\r\n
\r\nDespite having the added pressure of finding his way as an undrafted free agent, Smith was promoted to the Hagerstown staff this season and he has not missed a beat. He has begun the season with three straight scoreless relief appearances, striking out 10 batters in 9 1/3 innings, and holding opposing batters to a .097 batting average thus far. Though he is just 20 games into his professional career, his numbers are phenomenal: 48.2 IP, 32 Hits, 1.85 ERA, 8 BB, 52 K's.
\r\n
\r\n\r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n\r\n
\r\n

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Sample the NYfansonly.com Total Access Pass™ at no risk for 7 days, then pay only $7.95 or $21.95. If you want to save 2 months off the monthly subscription price, simply choose the annual NYfansonly.com Total Access Pass™ at $79.95.

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