Cyclones' Landing enjoying resurgent season

While most of the attention was drawn to Brooklyn Cyclones manager Mookie Wilson, the opening day starter for the Cyclones was sitting quietly in the dugout, collecting his thoughts and soaking in the atmosphere. Jeff Landing returned to Brooklyn after spending some time with the Cyclones last season, and is set to give his team the opportunity to grab the victory every time he is on the mound.

Last year was a total nightmare for Landing, the Mets 12th round selection in the 2004 Amateur Draft. As a result, the North Carolina native committed himself to hard work this off-season.

The righthander went 0-4 with a 10.50 ERA in nine games (four starts) last year for the Cyclones. In 21 innings, he allowed 39 hits while issuing nine walks and striking out seventeen.

Landing was then sent down to the Rookie-league Kingsport Mets, where his struggles continued. His numbers looked similar posting the same record with a 9.64 ERA in six starts.

"Last year I really struggled here, getting off to a bad start and couldn't recover," Landing said. "I went to Kingsport and a similar thing happened there.

"As a result, this off-season I was really focused on getting better in my conditioning, gain[ing] some weight and trying to hold up for a full season. I did that and came out ready and fit for spring training."

Port St. Lucie was where Landing wanted to prove to the organization he could pitch well and satisfy himself, knowing that all that hard work paid off. Landing said he did not know what to expect once he arrived in Florida, but he knew he did not want to stay there past March.

"My goal was to make a long season club," Landing said. "I didn't want to stay and play in extended spring training. In the end, it was real gratifying to make a long-season club, because at that moment I saw all my hard work over the winter paying off."

Assigned to the Class-A Hagerstown Suns, Landing made 14 starts before making the trip north to Brooklyn. He fared well, not issuing an earned run in three of his first five starts and was 2-1 with a 2.16 ERA after his first five starts.

Landing issued three runs or less in nine of his starts and hopes to pitch the same way for the Cyclones.

"As a pitcher, your approach does not change and I still have to pitch these hitters the same way," Landing said. "I still have to locate and hit my spots to keep my team in the game."

The organization did not tell Landing what the rest of the year will hold for him, and a return to Brooklyn did not surface in his mind, primarily because it was an issue that did not concern the young hurler.

"The organization didn't tell me anything, but in baseball you are here one day and somewhere else the next day," he said. "You never know what can happen. Did I think I could be here? That wasn't something I was concerned about and I only concerned myself with my next start."

If Landing was nervous to walk on the mound in front of a record-setting crowd of over 9,300 on Tuesday, he did not show it, smiling and waiting patiently for the game to begin.

"There will be a ton of fans here [in Brooklyn], and it will make for a great atmosphere," Landing said. "... My only goal is to keep my team in the game."

He did just that, allowing just two runs in six innings of work and leaving with a lead before handing the game over to the bullpen.

"Last year, I felt I wasn't helping the team at all," Landing said. "It feels real [good] to be pitching better and knowing I am actually contributing to the win."

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