Notes: Burgos finishes off victory
Former Royals closer gets out of jam in Mets debut
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Something of an exchange rate evidently exists between New York and Kansas City, which may explain why some urban chauvinists regard Kansas City as an oxymoron. The two real estate markets underscore the difference. And Ambiorix Burgos identifies other disparities. Through an interpreter, the Mets' new reliever suggested -- with no malice intended -- that K.C. is Triple-A, compared with New York.
And that allows him to accept the role he probably will fill when the Mets' season begins -- setup relief. These days, a closer in Kansas City sets up in Queens. Though not in exhibition games.
Manager Willie Randolph put Burgos in charge of a happy ending on Thursday, when the Mets played the Cardinals in their second Spring Training game. The erstwhile Royals closer put the finishing touch on a 4-3 victory.
A broken bat, a leadoff single and a subsequent overthrow put the tying run on second base with one out. A two-out wild pitch put the runner, Travis Hanson, on third base and essentially eliminated the slider from Burgos' hard-harder-hardest repertoire. A 2-2 fastball to Miguel Negron ended the game.
The radar guns in camp seem a tad slow these days. Burgos' fastballs produced readings in the low 90s on Thursday, this from a 22-year-old right-handed pitcher who said a pitch he threw with the Royals two years ago was measured at 103 mph.
Burgos also said he expects his fastball to gain a few miles per hour in the next two weeks.
Velocity isn't the issue; location is. The staff is working with Burgos to get him "looser" in his delivery, meaning it wants his arms more free and farther from his body before he breaks his hands as a means of improving his timing and -- as a result -- his control.
The location of his pitches was quite acceptable Thursday.
"Down in the strike zone," Randolph said. "That's where he needs to be."
But what Randolph likes the most is this, simply: "He misses bats."
Generous to a fault: Right-hander Jorge Sosa surrendered two home runs in two innings on Thursday, which came as no surprise. The veteran pitcher the Mets think may emerge as their long reliever allowed 30 in merely 118 innings with the Braves and Cardinals last season. Jason Marquis, then of the Cardinals, led the National League in home run generosity, with 35. But he threw 76 1/3 more innings than Sosa.
On average, Sosa allowed 25.4 home runs per 100 innings last season, a figure that doesn't compare well with the one-season rate of the recent pitchers to lead the league in home runs allowed.
Eric Milton led the league in 2004 and '05, yielding 21.4 home runs per 100 innings with the Phillies in '04 and giving up 21.5 in '05 with the Reds. In 2003, the Brewers' Wayne Franklin allowed 18.0 per 100 innings, and Pedro Astacio gave up 16.7 in '02 pitching for the Mets.
Eye spy: As a player with the Mets, Howard Johnson always had the best vision in the clubhouse: 20-15. And he still can see what many others can't. HoJo's sight and powers of observation can been applied in his new role as first-base coach. He will do more than direct runners -- "Turn left" or "Turn right" -- and try to pick up pitchers' pickoff moves.
Howard Johnson -- nice guy, good father and husband -- will serve as a spy, too.
Now, before anyone thinks that stealing signs or reading a pitcher's delivery is devious, unethical and punishable by having to watch pitchers' fielding practice, understand that every coach tries to do it -- first base, third base and in the dugout. Espionage is one of the arts of the game.
"I think I can pick things up," Johnson says. "I'm there watching the pitcher for things he does, little signs, as he's going to the plate and what he does when he's coming to first. You might see a guy throw a hundred pitches one day and, maybe a week later, throw a hundred more.
"You might pick up something by accident. But if you know where to look, you might find something you can pass along to a runner."
Or to a hitter.
Of course, that's a little dicey. Getting information to a hitter in the few seconds available isn't easy. Moreover, danger is involved. A hitter anticipating a breaking ball may be slow to duck away from an inside fastball.
"That's why if I think I see something," Johnson said, "I've got to be sure."
Trainer's room: X-rays of the right hand of Lastings Milledge taken Thursday revealed no fracture. Milledge was struck by a pitch from the Tigers' Zach Miner on Wednesday.
Jose Valentin (sprained right ankle) hopes to play Saturday against the Dodgers.
Handicapping the East: Cardinals manager Tony La Russa on the race in the National League East: "I think -- based on what the Mets did last year and all their plusses, with no disrespect to Atlanta or anybody, or Philadelphia -- they're the team to beat. But I think it's going to be very competitive, because I'm sure Atlanta's going to be tough. Philadelphia is a year older ... I think they're going to be good. I think it's a really good division."
Hats off to grandpa: Duaner Sanchez almost always wears his cap askew when he isn't pitching, and he pulls it down just over his brow in a Beetle Bailey way when he pitches. And he does something distinctive when he removes it as well. He rests it with top facing down, heeding the advice of his late paternal grandfather, a tailor in Brooklyn.
Roselio Sanchez was quite particular with his clothing, sometimes for the benefit of the garment, sometimes for the benefit of its owner. In this case, he told his grandson to rest the cap with the top down "So all good things that might come to you will fall in it."
"So far, so good," the Mets reliever said.
Grandpa II: Carlos Delgado and his wife are expecting the birth of their first child. The due date is April 1, which also is Opening Day for the Mets. So there is some uncertainty as to whether they will have their first baseman for their first game.
There is little uncertainty otherwise. Carlos and Betzaida already know the baby's gender -- male. And the names of both grandfathers-in-waiting are Carlos Antonio. What choice did the parents have?
Exclamation point: Billy Wagner isn't likely to name his split-finger pitch any time soon (see Roger Clemens and "Splitty").
"It's got to actually work before I starting giving it some funny name," Wagner says.
Coming up: The Mets play the Cardinals again on Friday at 1:05 p.m. ET, but this game is at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter. The Cardinals brought a representative lineup to Port St. Lucie on Thursday, with Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen, Scott Spiezio, Chris Duncan and right fielder Rick Ankiel, the former pitcher. Who will the Mets bring to Jupiter? Chan Ho Park is set to start for the Mets opposite Braden Looper, the former Mets closer who is a candidate for the Cardinals' rotation.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.