'Back to School' for Kevin Mulvey

It happened in the "snap of a finger" for Kevin Mulvey. The Mets' top selection in the 2006 draft, Mulvey – a 21-year-old right-hander - needed just three months to go from the thrill of hearing his name called to a whole other type of excitement: Pitching in a Double-A pennant race for the Binghamton Mets.

Though Binghamton's playoff hopes ended on a rainy weekend in Connecticut, with the B-Mets splitting a doubleheader that could have helped them edge into the postseason, it wasn't any fault of Mulvey's, who made three starts at Double-A and fared progressively better in each one.

"It's definitely been quick," Mulvey said. "A two-month layoff and then all of a sudden I'm in a playoff race in Double-A baseball. But I'm not really surprised at the way it worked out, because that's just the philosophy of the people upstairs, to get people moving."

Because the Mets surrendered their first-round selection as compensation for signing Type A free agent Billy Wagner over the winter, New York's first opportunity in the June draft came 62nd overall.

There, they decided upon Mulvey, who pitched three seasons at Villanova University and was a second-team All-Big East selection last spring.

His Wildcats teammates had trouble at times backing Mulvey with run support, which was one reason for a 3-8 record in 2006. Mulvey compiled a team-best 3.61 ERA in 14 starts, including 88 strikeouts in 92 1/3 innings and five complete games.

Mulvey, who features a 92-93 MPH fastball, a slider and a developing change-up and curveball, agreed to terms on a contract with the Mets in August. He was introduced to the New York media at Shea Stadium, holding court with general manager Omar Minaya in the team's dugout as his family looked on from the field.

Surrounded by reporters and television cameras, Mulvey – a Parlin, N.J. resident who has attended numerous Mets and Yankees home games - said he allowed his thoughts to drift briefly to what it could be like if he one day makes it back to Shea as a player.

"Playing baseball in New York is the greatest baseball town in the world," Mulvey said. "It'd be great to play for the Mets in New York City. It's fun playing in Binghamton. I can't imagine how much fun it'd be there."

First, though, Mulvey couldn't wait simply to get back on a mound. He did so in the Gulf Coast League, working out and making one two-inning start on Aug. 19 before being summoned to Double-A Binghamton.

"That's probably been the longest that I've been without playing baseball since I was about eight," Mulvey said. "At least when I was eight I'd be playing other sports. But just sitting around doing nothing, trying to keep my arm in shape, running and throwing and not being able to compete – that was tough."

Promoted after the Gulf Coast tune-up, B-Mets pitching coach Mark Brewer said he recognized Mulvey's talent instantly.

"The first time I saw him throw on the side, you could see right away what the scouts saw from his raw ability," Brewer said. "His first outing was somewhat tentative, but his second outing was like he'd been here all year from the standpoint of execution."

His Double-A debut came in an Aug. 24 game at Binghamton's NYSEG Stadium, when Mulvey allowed two runs and two hits over three innings, taking a no-decision to the Erie SeaWolves.

Mulvey admitted to feeling some nerves before the start, though he said life in the Eastern League was pretty much as expected.

"Growing up, I've been to a lot of professional baseball games," Mulvey said. "In New Jersey, the Trenton Thunder play and I'd been to a couple of those games throughout my life. I've been around baseball my whole life. I was pretty prepared."

Start two came five days later at home against Portland, with Mulvey shutting the Sea Dogs out on four hits through 4 1/3 innings before leaving – the victim of running into a strict 75-pitch count.

"I knew I was on a pitch count from the start," Mulvey said. "I would have liked to have gone a little deeper into the game with 75 pitches, but that's where I was."

Finally, making his last start of 2006, Mulvey ventured six innings at Connecticut on Sept. 4, allowing two runs (none earned) in a loss to the Defenders.

He finished the year 0-1 with a 1.35 ERA in 13 1/3 innings for Binghamton, leaving his thoughts optimistic toward the 2007 campaign and a continuation of his progression.

Brewer said he was impressed by Mulvey's presence of mind and his willingness to learn. That can only help down the road, as the pitching coach noted incoming collegiate pitchers have quite a bit of learning to do as they adjust to the professional game.

"In your major colleges, a lot of the things that you need to do in professional baseball within a game are pretty much done for you at the college level," Brewer said.

"That's just the way it is. What we're trying to do is just bleed that into what he's doing. He's going to have to understand who's on base; who the burners are, who are the guys that would take advantage of him if he slips up. He's going back to school again."


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