06/20/12 12:09 AM ET
Facing former mentor, Dickey at top of his game
By Anthony DiComo, Ethan Asofsky and Adam Rosenbloom / MLB.com
The knuckleball was nearing extinction in 2005, with Boston hurler Tim Wakefield then at the tail end of his career, but Showalter -- then the manager of the Rangers -- thought the pitch suited R.A. Dickey, who at that point was a disappointment on the field but a positive influence in the clubhouse. Showalter thought Dickey could handle the transition, but he never imagined Dickey -- now with the Mets -- would turn into the hurler he is now. Dickey finished a one-hitter against Showalter's Orioles on Monday with the National League lead in wins, ERA and strikeouts; it was his second consecutive one-hitter and the third of his career.
"The stat guys would roll their eyes and say, 'He's fighting for Dickey again,'" said Showalter. "Those guys usually repay the confidence you have in them, but everything about him was big league except his stuff at that time."
What Dickey has done with his knuckleball has far surpassed what Showalter taught him. He has taken leaps forward with the pitch, learning how to control it and change speeds in ways Wakefield never could.
"It's a hard knuckleball," Baltimore center fielder Adam Jones said. "Wakefield's is big and slow, and you can see it. You still swing and miss, but you can see it. This one gets on you. It gets on you quick."
All Jones could do at times Monday was laugh. In his third at-bat of the night against Dickey, a ball started down the middle of the plate and broke out of the strike zone.
He turned behind him to catcher Josh Thole and asked, "What was that?"
Thole shook his head and grinned back at Jones.
"Whatever he figured out, you have to tip your cap to the man," Jones said. "I don't give credit to many pitchers, but you've just got to respect his game that much."
Dickey has been earning plenty of respect this season and is working on a streak of 42 2/3 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run, the most by a Mets pitcher since Dwight Gooden threw 48 in 1985, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
"As much as any knuckleball moves, I don't know how he can control it and throw it over the plate consistently," Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy said. "It's a knuckleball that he can control and throw it for strikes. ... You look at the catcher, and he can barely catch them."
While Dickey has the most wins of any pitcher in the Major Leagues, he hasn't always been a success story. He once threw a below-average fastball and a curve that was nothing special. For that reason, he's different than a pure knuckleballer like Wakefield, and it's working to his advantage.
"You're not going up there thinking heater, but he still has that fastball," Jones said. "Obviously, it's not high velocity or anything, but when you go up there thinking about knuckleballs, that's pretty hard."
Valdespin shows some versatility in left field
NEW YORK -- Those who hit will continue to play. Such is the mantra that manager Terry Collins has adopted throughout his tenure with the Mets, giving Jordany Valdespin a second consecutive start in a 5-0 win Tuesday.
Valdespin, who batted second, had a pair of RBIs in a 2-for-4 performance, which came on the heels of another 2-for-4 outing Monday.
Problem is, the Mets are already committed to Daniel Murphy at second base, Valdespin's natural position, despite Murphy's recent struggles. And they are not interested in giving Valdespin more defensive reps at shortstop, where he struggled earlier this season. So to plug Valdespin into Tuesday's lineup against the Orioles, Collins had to revisit his Spring Training experiment, using the rookie in left field. Valdespin played in the outfield for the first seven innings, then shifted to second in the late innings.
"If they need me in the outfield, I'll play the outfield," said Valdespin, who played center at Triple-A Buffalo early in April and has subbed in left field twice with the Mets. "That's the opportunity."
"Maybe this is his opportunity," Collins said, "that he's going to grab and make the most of it."
Though Valdespin collected just two hits -- one of them a go-ahead home run -- over his first 23 big league at-bats, he has since gone 10-for-31, with four doubles, one triple and one home run.
His window for playing time may be limited, with injured middle infielders Ruben Tejada and Ronny Cedeno both on rehab assignments and nearing activation. But coming off a 17-homer, 37-steal season split between two Minor League levels last year, Valdespin may be auditioning to stick around even after those two return.
"He's adding some spark," Collins said. "He's adding some energy. The last few games he's played, we've won, so I'm going to run him in there again tonight."
Mets host college players from Stony Brook
NEW YORK -- The Northeast may never be a haven for college baseball, but that didn't stop Stony Brook University.
The Seawolves, fresh off their captivating run to the College World Series, watched from the field as the Mets took batting practice at Citi Field on Tuesday before a 5-0 win over the Orioles.
A Division I baseball program for only 12 years, Stony Brook upset six-time national champion LSU in the Super Regional to reach the CWS for the first time. The Seawolves were ousted from the tourney with a loss to Florida State on Sunday -- Stony Brook also lost to UCLA on Friday in its first game of the double-elimination tournament. Still, that didn't make the team's run any less remarkable.
"After we lost in Omaha, it didn't really sink in, but on the plane ride home the next day, it was kind of like, 'Wow. What we accomplished was something amazing that not every team does, and even great programs don't make it to Omaha,'" center fielder Travis Jankowski said on Tuesday. "We're kind of a no-name Northeast team that made it there."
Jankowski was among seven Seawolves selected in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, which was held earlier this month. The center fielder, who was named Most Valuable Player of the Cape Cod Summer League in 2011, was selected by the Padres at No. 44 overall after hitting .414 this season.
On Tuesday, the players were all smiles as they got to catch a glimpse of some of their favorite players taking swings in the cage. Catcher Pat Cantwell -- who was selected in the third round by the Texas Rangers -- said it was a "surreal" way to kick off his professional career.
"It's absolutely unreal, the opportunity to come and watch the pros do it," he said. "You dream of this as a kid, coming out on the field and watching the guys that you've idolized for so long practice and warm up before a game and just see how it's done. It's been an amazing run and this is just the icing on the cake."
Outfielder Jason Bay met with a doctor Tuesday for a second straight day, but the Mets had no update on his condition.
General manager Sandy Alderson said Monday that Bay "may be out quite a while" after suffering a concussion last Friday at Citi Field.
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDicomo. Ethan Asofsky and Adam Rosenbloom are associate reporters for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.