PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- The guy who will start on opening day for the Mets says he needs to get angry.
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Is there any team more capable of generating anger right now than the Mets? Is there any team with more for its fans -- and perhaps even its players -- to get mad at?
Look around you, Mike Pelfrey.
Pelfrey is the opening day starter, and he's unusual on this team. He's not hurt, he's not badly overpaid and he's not hated by the fans.
Oh, and he should even have a future here.
He won 15 games with a 3.66 ERA in 2010, even though he was awful in July (0-3, 10.02). He started strong (4-0, 0.69 in April), and finished strong (5-3, 2.78 over his last 11 starts).
"I thought in the last part of the season he was spectacular," pitching coach Dan Warthen said.
And one of the biggest things about it was that Pelfrey started to look the part.
When he pitched so well last April, one of the first things rival scouts mentioned was his improved mound presence. He took charge of games, and he looked like he wouldn't let go.
He hasn't always done that, in a career where he has sometimes (but not often enough) lived up to his status as a high first-round draft pick (ninth overall in 2005).
He hasn't always looked the part. He knows he hasn't, and he thinks he knows what he needs to do about it.
Some pitchers need anger management classes. The way Pelfrey sees it, he needs more anger.
"A guy like Chris Carpenter, when he steps on the mound, he looks upset," Pelfrey said. "Being upset, being angry -- it brings the best out of you. When you're upset and you don't really have your best stuff, you can still get by.
"When you're moping around, the hitters sense that."
Bounce-back player ... Jose Reyes: Reyes did finish fifth among Fantasy shortstops last season (429 points), but the scary thing is that he could have had an even better year. Reyes missed much of spring training battling injuries and spent the first two-plus months in spring-training mode as he got acclimated to game action. But he hit his stride in early June and produced up to standards the rest of the way. Reyes hit .310 with six triples, 10 homers, 19 doubles, 33 RBI, 53 runs and 16 stolen bases in his final 80 games. Reyes is not only healthy heading into the spring, but he is in the final year of his contract and certainly has extra motivation to perform well in '11.
Sleeper ... Ike Davis: Davis effectively filled the void at first base for the Mets in '10 that was left by Carlos Delgado's departure. Although Davis doesn't possess Delgado's home-run prowess, he sure fooled us last year. Davis slugged 19 homers and posted a respectable .791 OPS. Delgado had an .843 OPS in his rookie season before finishing with a career .929 mark, so Davis has room to improve. Davis is more of a gap hitter that probably tops out at about 20-25 homers and 80-90 RBI. He does need to show a little more patience at the plate -- he struck out 138 times in 147 games as a rookie -- but this guy can certainly outproduce his draft position.
Bust ... R.A. Dickey: Dickey was one of the biggest Fantasy surprises last season, winning 10-plus games for the first time in his career while posting a 2.84 ERA. Still, the odds of him repeating that performance are against him. Dickey came into last year with a 22-28 record, a 5.43 ERA and 1.57 WHIP in first seven MLB seasons. The 36-year-old's season was pretty much an anomaly. While knuckleballers can throw way past their prime, Dickey is probably going to follow the path of fellow knuckleballer Tim Wakefield. At 35, Wakefield also posted a sub-3.00 ERA in one of his best seasons. The year after (2003) he posted a 4.09 ERA and since that season has a 4.53 ERA.-- Michael Hurcomb
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It's not a new theory.
"Fake it until you make it," some pitchers have said in the past.
The key is to go to the mound with that look, and that attitude, no matter how you feel. The key, in Pelfrey's mind, is to go to the mound angry.
"Maybe I need to wrestle somebody, yell at somebody, before I start," he said. "One thing I started thinking about was that the hitters up there were trying to take food from my son."
He knows the Mets are depending on him more than ever, with Johan Santana still trying to come back from shoulder surgery. Santana will miss the first part of the season, at the very least, and there's no guarantee at all that he'll look like a No. 1 starter when (or should that be if?) he returns.
"There's not any one person who can replace Johan Santana," Pelfrey said.
Santana is more typical of the 2011 Mets. He makes a huge amount of money ($22.5 million this year, $77.5 million guaranteed for the next three years). He's hurt, and his future is totally uncertain.
Then there's Carlos Beltran, the one-time All-Star center fielder who will play right field this year -- assuming his sore knees ever allow him to get on the field at all.
It's been that kind of spring in Metsland, a spring that began with renewed questions about whether the Wilpon family can hold on as owners of the team. Between the ownership questions and the injury questions, there seems less spring optimism in Mets camp than at any other spring training site.
The players they wish were healthy (Santana, Beltran) haven't been on the field. The players they don't want (Perez, Castillo) are healthy, but don't look any better than they did before. Closer Francisco Rodriguez is healthy, but that just means it'll be tougher for the Mets to keep him from the 55 games finished he would need to vest an enormous $17.5 million option for 2012.
Jason Bay, who missed the second half of 2010 with a concussion, says he's fully healthy this spring. But he has hit poorly enough that rival scouts wonder if he can be the player he once was.
Jose Reyes says he's fully healthy, too. But Reyes is in the final year of his contract, and there's more doubt than ever that he fits into the Mets' long-term plans. The new management team, headed by general manager Sandy Alderson, doesn't put great value on stealing bases, a part of the game a healthy Reyes excels at.
It has been that kind of spring, a spring where most of the news is bad, and even the good news doesn't feel that good.
The players notice. They say it doesn't bother them, but they notice.
"When you're on the field, it gets you away from everything," Pelfrey said. "It gets you away from all the distractions."
But maybe he shouldn't stay away. Maybe Pelfrey should listen.
Maybe looking at everything going on around the Mets will help him build up the anger he wants.