It was no coincidence that Terry Collins declared Mike Pelfrey his Opening Day starter months before spring training began. It was an act of faith meant to bolster the fragile confidence of the right-hander who was left to inherit the position of the staff ace.
In the absence of Johan Santana, who still hopes to return to the mound by July, the Mets needed someone, and Pelfrey was the obvious choice. Experienced enough and with a successful season in 2010, he seemed ready to turn his potential into achievement. But after Pelfrey's first two starts this season, the Mets may have to find another way to raise his spirits.
Through the Mets' first five games, they have lost twice -- the two games that Pelfrey started. After a grand slam turned the opening game in Florida, Pelfrey was worse in his second start, lasting just two-plus innings and getting rocked for eight hits and seven runs (six earned), and watching his ERA balloon to 15.63. The Phillies emerged with a 10-7 win.
"I was awful," Pelfrey said. "Anytime the team scores seven runs, I've got to win. I was bad last week, and I was even worse tonight. I let them down again. I feel bad for the bullpen. They had to pick up six innings. I've got to definitely be better than I have been."
Pelfrey put the Mets in a 7-0 hole Wednesday, a deficit that they managed to erase before the Phillies scored the game's final three runs. But the comeback did little to make Pelfrey feel better about his own performance.
He pinned his troubles not on mechanics or execution but on pitch selection. He blamed himself, not catcher Josh Thole, for not shaking off pitches to go with his best when he needed it. For Pelfrey, the best pitch is the sinking fastball, and then comes the split-fingered fastball. But he said Wednesday that he found himself relying on a slider and a curve, neither of which he was throwing for strikes. Falling behind in the count, he was helpless when he needed to come in with his fastball.
"Ultimately it's on me," Pelfrey said. "I went along with everything. I didn't shake. That's totally on me. Obviously I didn't make pitches. I fell behind in the count. I threw fastballs, and they were in fastball counts, they were looking for it."
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