Pelfrey impresses in home debut

Geographically, the town Mike Pelfrey currently calls home is about a three-hour drive from Shea Stadium. But with each outing, that gap seems to be closing.

Pelfrey dominated in his home debut for Double-A Binghamton Tuesday, striking out 10 and allowing two earned runs in seven innings for a no-decision in the B-Mets' 8-3 victory over the Connecticut Defenders.

Pelfrey, the Mets' No. 1 draft pick last year out of Wichita State University, said he has heard rumors of a pending promotion to the Major Leagues. His approach has been to try and block the speculation out.

"People say all kinds of stuff, like, 'Hey, you're going to be at Shea,'" Pelfrey said. "You can't listen to that, because that's going to be a downfall. You need to stay focused on the task at hand, and that's throwing here at Double-A."

Making his third Eastern League start, Pelfrey retired the first nine Connecticut batters to face him before Randy Walter chopped a double down the third base line opening the fourth inning.

Pelfrey allowed an unearned run in the fifth inning and struck out nine batters through his first six innings before running into trouble in the seventh, grinding out a frame that saw two Connecticut runs score.

In normal situations, teams might have opted for a reliever to finish the seventh inning, especially with Pelfrey nearing the end of what would be an 89-pitch outing, and with the tying and go-ahead runs aboard following two hits to open the inning.

But the Mets appear to be pushing Pelfrey, testing his guile and composure with each outing. The Mets said they were pleased with how Pelfrey bounced back from a four-inning, 13-hit blip last week at Akron, and in the seventh inning Tuesday, Pelfrey gritted through a bases-loaded situation, escaping with two runs of damage.

"The main thing is he doesn't get upset at anything on the mound," said Rick Waits, the Mets' Minor League pitching coordinator. "He knows how to pitch, has tempo on mound and goes right after hitters. He knows his stuff is good."

Pelfrey scattered seven hits in Tuesday's effort, but had several sparkling moments. Taking advantage of a generous strike zone, he struck out batters with each of his three main pitches, gunning a 95 MPH fastball to the plate with a smooth, efficient delivery, and kept hitters guessing with a good change-up and a big, sweeping curveball.

"This guy is awesome," said catcher Yunir Garcia, who has worked with Pelfrey in his three Double-A starts. "I like when this guy throws. Every pitch is like a strike – inside, outside. He's not scared. He's good, man. I think he's good."

Though Pelfrey believes he needs to be able to work in his change-up and curveball more often, instead of relying on the fastball, he said he would still give Tuesday's effort a "B" rating.

"I showed stuff today," Pelfrey said. "You could see flashes of everything where it needs to be. I just need to be more consistent, especially with my breaking ball."

B-Mets manager Juan Samuel was seeing Pelfrey pitch for the first time, after missing the right-hander's first two Double-A starts while recovering from injuries suffered from a foul ball at Binghamton's NYSEG Stadium.

Samuel said he was impressed with Pelfrey's poise and, even though speculation is Pelfrey may not be Samuel's to watch for long, he looks forward to seeing Pelfrey improve his consistency.

"I'm going to enjoy him as long as he's here with us," Samuel said. "He's a young kid who is still learning how to pitch. I'm going to manage my guys when they're here and let the people who make the decisions make them."

Pelfrey's 10 strikeouts Tuesday set a new high for Binghamton pitchers, and are the most Pelfrey has recorded as a professional. Though Pelfrey grinned and said he doesn't mind when a batter swings and misses, he insisted that the strikeouts aren't necessarily indicative of the kind of pitcher he can project to be.

"I try to go out there and pitch to contact," Pelfrey said. "I try to get guys to go out and hit ground balls, and get as many guys out as I can. Strikeouts can come, but that's not the kind of guy I am."

After going 2-1 with a 1.64 ERA at Class-A St. Lucie, Pelfrey has been dealt three no-decisions at Binghamton, compiling a 3.78 ERA. He can clearly see the hole left by Victor Zambrano's injury in New York's starting rotation, but insists he is keeping his mind on the tasks at hand with the B-Mets – at least, until a call comes.

"The only thing I can really concern myself with is Double-A. That's where I'm at," Pelfrey said. "I don't make decisions about the Mets, and I don't control it. That's the kind of stuff you just try to keep out of your mind."

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