Negron Finding His Spots

In his first year in the Mets' organization, the Binghamton rightfielder looks to impress in a crowded outfield. After a brief tenure in the St. Louis system, he signed with the Mets. It reunited him with manager Mako Oliveras with whom he has a very close relationship. Inside Pitch caught up with Negron on as the B-Mets battle their way back into the Eastern League race.

Tommy Hottovy's 1-2 fastball was away—a little too far away from Miguel Negron's perspective. With two on and no one out, the Binghamton Mets outfielder was rung up by home plate umpire Victor Carapazza, and Negron felt the matter was up for discussion.

"It's that kind of situation where you have to move the runner along and you're battling in your at-bat and then you get called strike on a dumb pitch, so you get kind of pissed off," Negron said.

Manager and third base coach Mako Oliveras quickly jogged toward the plate, and had a few words of his own for Carapazza. Oliveras didn't care about the call, he cared about keeping his player—someone he's watched grow up—in the game.

"I was trying to get the attention away from Negron, I wanted the umpire to start talking to me. I don't want anybody to get thrown out of the game," Oliveras said.

The B-Mets beat Portland 1-0 on May 5, and Negron had a key single in the ninth inning to put the winning run in scoring position.

Both Oliveras and Negron are natives of Puerto Rico, and Oliveras played with Negron's father. As the B-Mets walked off the field winners of consecutive games for the first time this season, Oliveras had some words for the 24-year-old he had first met as a teenager.

"You know you cannot argue balls and strikes … I told him that you cannot let the umpire take your at-bats away from you," Oliveras said. "It's been sort of like a father-son relationship since he was a kid."

Oliveras is one reason the former first-round pick is a Met. Negron led the Puerto Rican Winter League this offseason with a .381 average as a member of the Caguas Criollos, a team managed by Oliveras (Negron played for Caguas under Oliveras the previous winter as well).

"He's a talented player, he was a first-round pick a few years ago; he becomes available, we want to sign him," said vice president for player development Tony Bernazard. "He played for Mako in the winter, and Mako knows him and he gave a good recommendation."

Jim Edmonds and Alfonso Soriano are the others.

The Toronto Blue Jays drafted Negron 18th overall in the 2000 draft. He stayed a Blue Jay until last April, when after batting .215 at Double-A New Hampshire, he was placed on waivers and picked up by the Cubs. Sometimes, that's how careers are saved.

"I was having in 2005 a really good season with in Double-A, and then I came to spring training in 2006 and I was performing well, having a really nice spring training in big league camp where I hit like .350," Negron explained.

"Then, I don't know for what reason, they send me back to Double-A, and I got a little bit frustrated, because I know I was really ready to play Triple-A. If you're not happy in some place, things change, I wasn't really concentrating, That's one of the reasons why when I got picked up by the Cubs I was starting a new career—new people, new eyes."

For Chicago's Double-A club West Tennessee, Negron batted .291 after hitting .424 in June. And he was happy there. But then in November, with a certain 40/40 free agent outfielder available, Negron was placed on waivers again.

"Wasn't disappointing, the Cubs still gave me the opportunity when they decided to pick me up on waivers, and I did well with them, they've always been honest with me," Negron said. "I received a call like two days before they're going to take me off of the roster and they explained to me the situation, they're telling me ‘You know, we're going to sign Soriano, we don't have any more roster spots available,' but they still really wanted to sign me."

So did five or six other teams, including the Mets and the team he ended up with, the Cardinals. Negron was brought in as organizational insurance for Jim Edmonds, who had just 350 at-bats in 2006. But at the end of spring training, Edmonds proved healthy, setting off a chain reaction that left Negron without a spot.

"After a good spring training and everything was fine, Jim Edmonds starts playing and they send down another guy from the big leagues, John Rodriguez, to Triple-A," Negron said. "And they have another prospect who came from Double-A who they really need to let play everyday, so they didn't have a space for me."

On March 25, Negron signed with the Mets. Batting third in Binghamton's lineup and manning rightfield, Negron's done it all: a team-leading 20 RBI, two home runs, a third-best .274 average and three stolen bases.

Others are starting to take notice of the five-tool outfielder, as well. On May 2, SportsNet New York field reporter Kevin Burkhardt mentioned Negron's success. In the clubhouse waiting to play New Britain at the time, Negron just happened to be watching.

"It took me for surprise because the game was going on and then they said my name and I said, ‘Whoa, whoa, I want to hear what they say'—at least somebody knows what I am doing and somebody knows what I can do," Negron said.

The Blue Jays in the end did not know what Negron can do. The Cubs did, the Cardinals didn't seem to, and Oliveras, Bernazard and Burkhardt and the Mets seem to now. Now, back in Double-A, with the way he's rolling, Negron has no disappointment, only focus.

"They gave me a job later on in spring training when it's hard to find one, if I am disappointed with somebody it's me because I know I can be at a higher level. If they send me to Double-A, I just need to play hard."

Just not so hard he gets thrown out for arguing balls and strikes.

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