In Berrios They Trust

Since the hiring of Rick Peterson in 2004, the Mets organization has under gone a systematic change in terms of pitching philosophy. From the big league club to all the way down to the lowest levels of rookie ball, the Mets have changed their way of grooming pitchers in the organization.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in Brooklyn, where the Cyclones are among the New York-Penn League's leaders in team ERA (2.86, second only to Batavia's 2.83 mark) under the tutelage of pitching coach Hector Berrios.

Most of the Cyclones pitchers credit their success to Berrios, with good reason. Berrios has served as a Cyclones pitching coach three different times and the team has finished no worst than second in the New York-Penn League in team ERA.

Modestly, Berrios gives credit right back to his pitching staff.

"I have a good bunch of kids that are really receptive and they want to get better," said the Bronx-born Berrios. "They just have been doing everything we've been asking of them...we have a philosophy and they've stayed within it. When they don't, they've seen firsthand that they end up not having success. Sometimes they have to really take their lumps and bumps to understand what the philosophy means in order for them to have success."

But what is this philosophy that has keyed the Cyclones to a first place first half in 2006?

"It starts with (the pitchers) really focusing on every pitch," Berrios said. "They have to be really focused and understand when they throw a baseball, they have to throw it at a certain level in the strike zone in order not to give hitters good looks. When they throw it at a certain level, they're going to get more ground ball outs than fly outs...we as an organization preach first pitch strikes, we really preach three pitches or less."

The Cyclones are a team that does not shy away from contact. Entering Tuesday's play, Brooklyn was 10th in the league in strikeouts (399), but is fourth in fewest walks allowed (144). Berrios hailed the merits of some of his more aggressive pitchers.

"You see the (Jake) Ruckles, the (Eric) Browns, they go right after those hitters," Berrios said. "Now they have a lot more pitches in the seventh and eighth inning."

Both Ruckle and Brown have heeded Berrios' guidance with strong first halves and were named to the New York-Penn League All-Star team.

Ruckle, with his awkward motion, is 4-1 with a 2.64 ERA in 10 starts. Brown, who has been a ground ball machine with his sinking fastball, is 4-1 with a 1.29 ERA in seven starts.

Along with the starters, the Cyclones also saw Jeremy Mizell - whose work in the bullpen has been nothing short of stellar – named to the All-Star Team. Through 14 appearances, Mizell is 2-0 with a 1.46 ERA.

Berrios works tirelessly with all the Cyclones pitchers and says the work they put in their bullpen sessions has proven to the pitchers that practice makes perfect.

"The key is for them to be able to repeat their release points," said Berrios. "If they are off with their deliveries, they're doing something prior to that point that's making them miss. We just go over their delivery, from point A to point B. We do it so much it's ingrained in their minds."

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