B-Mets Look to Muniz Late

Muniz earned a promotion to Binghamton in 2007 after a strong season as the St. Lucie closer. He posted a .213 batting average against in 48 appearances last year. The pitching staff will rely heavily on him to close out games and return the squad back to the top of the Eastern League. Inside Pitch Magazine caught up him as the Mets head out for an eight game road trip.

Carlos Muniz, the Binghamton Mets' fifth pitcher of the game, started the 12th inning in a 7-7 tie. The B-Mets had trailed 5-0 in the first before chipping away all game; Muniz's roommate of three years, first baseman Mike Carp, had tied the contest on a solo home run in the bottom of the 11th to put the ball in his's hand. He sat down the first Portland batter on strikes before surrendering a walk. Six batters later, he had surrendered three runs and the game. He was tagged with the loss in the longest home opener in B-Mets history—nearly five hours in the rain.

"I struck out the first guy and after that I just started losing it, started just thinking too much and I really wasn't really trusting my pitches, which led me to throw more pitches," he said.

He entered the next game of the series staked with a 3-1 lead in the seventh inning, the final inning of Game 1 of a doubleheader. Retiring the first and last batters on three and four pitches respectively, he ended the game on three straight lazy flies and earned the save, his first of the season. Attacking the zone, forcing contact on the pitches he wants to be hit, throwing few more than three pitches per at-bat; that's the Carlos Muniz who saved five postseason games for the 2006 Florida State League champion St. Lucie Mets, including the championship clincher.

"When you have a bad day or a bad outing, you just got to put it behind you, you know the sun comes up the next morning," Muniz said.

The sun shone brighter in Puerto Rico this winter a lot more often than it has in Binghamton this spring (the B-Mets' last four home games were postponed). Muniz, who features a fastball in the low-90's, sinker, slider and changeup, played for Ponce in the offseason, his first time in winter ball.

"I got learn a lot as far as pitching in counts, setting up hitters, picking up tendencies," Muniz said. "I got to face big league hitters [like Juan Gonzalez, Alex Rios and Yadier Molina of 2006 NLCS fame], I got to see their routines—who's an aggressive hitter, first pitch hitter. I also got to talk to big league pitchers like Pedro Feliciano, got to pick his brain a little bit."

From spring training now into the season, Muniz has been focused on improving his game. On the physical side, he's trying to throw more and extend his outings beyond just an inning or two, and to refine his changeup with pitching coach Ricky Bones, who was also in St. Lucie with Muniz last season.

"I threw my changeup a lot [this spring]. There were times where I couldn't throw it for a strike and there were times where that was my pitch. And I just got to balance it out, sort it in my brain—that grip—and just really trust it. If you don't throw it you're not going to trust it," Muniz said.

On the mental side of things, Muniz's "mind of the game," Bones wants him to be "be more aggressive, pitch ahead in the count."

"I was talking to pitching coordinator Rick Waits and he was telling me that coming out of the pen you can't afford to be throwing a lot of pitches, [and I should] really focus on attacking the zone and getting the hitter out in three pitches," he said.

"I know it sounds kind of weird, ‘Oh three pitches, how am I going to get him out in three pitches,' but if you really think about it … you're going to attack the zone, you're going to throw strikes you're going to force contact. And you'll be able to pitch the next day," he followed.

Next time, Muniz hopes to be pitching the next day trying not to makeup for the previous one's mistakes. But when Muniz is focused, Carp, who knows him as well as any B-Met as a fellow part of that championship St. Lucie team last season, has confidence: "I just know he's going to shut it down; he's going to come in and work quick, and just get the out that he needs. He's not going to mess around."

Muniz may eventually become the B-Mets' closer—the job he's been doing since his Long Beach State days—but for now does not have that title.

"He's mainly going to be working late in the game, I won't call him the closer," Bones said.

Maybe someday they'll call him "Sandman."

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