Q&A with David Waldstein of the New York Times (Part 1)

On Thursday I talked with New York Times Mets beat writer David Waldstein:

NYSC: Chris Young is throwing just 84mph, he is a guy who needs to throw up in the zone to be effective. Throwing just 84mph, can he throw up in the zone without getting smashed?

David Waldstein: Yeah, he has never been a power pitcher, which is kind of funny because with his stride and long size, he can really be an intimidating guy. You have to think of him as more of a Tom Glavine type guy. He has never thrown hard so whatever success he has had in the past has been with the same kind of stuff. Maybe not with 84- but in the upper 80’s. And you expect him to get there. I am not saying he is going to be great, but if he gets back to where he was in the past, he can be effective. He is coming off a shoulder surgery, but he pitched pretty well when he came back last year, he ended the season, won a couple of games. Still [Chris Young], Chris Capuano, and I would even throw R.A. Dickey into that mix – are somewhat unknowns.

NYSC: Another guy that is throwing slower than he has in the past, is expected ace Mike Pelfrey, with both his mental makeup, and maybe lack of velocity, can he be a legitimate ace, at least until Johan returns?

David Waldstein: Its not so much about the velocity, its about the movement, the rotation and the change of speeds. Hitting is all about timing, all timing, so as a pitcher if you can mess up their timing, you can pitch very effectively… Pelfrey looked pretty good in the first half of last year, then he had an atroicious month, then he came back and pitched pretty well after that. I definitely think he is capable of having a good year, I don’t think he will win the Cy Young award though. But I think he will win more games than he losses, which with the Mets may not be a lot more he could wind up 13-12.

NYSC: Well Mets fans can stay positive as Carlos Beltran has looked great in the outfield thus far this spring – O wait, we haven’t seen him! He is all banged up with knee troubles in both his left and right knees. Mets GM Sandy Alderson believes he will still be ready for Opening Day, is that feasible?

David Waldstein: Dont believe anything the Mets say. Ok? Because if you are up close in these situations and they say Jose Reyes hurt his quad for instance, no knee, no it was his hamstring. Ok? I don’t listen to anything the Mets say about it. All I know is Carlos Beltran didn’t run all winter. Supposedly was back from the injury last year. He started to hit very well toward the end, but he wasn’t running well in the outfield. Then we find out, that the whole winter, while he did exercises on his knee, and ran in straight lines, he didn’t turn the corner. Then he gets in his first game in Spring Training, he runs the bases, he circles the bases. And he hasn’t played since. So based on that, if I am a planner, I don’t plan on him coming back anytime soon. He may, and it would be great for Mets fans if he does, because boy is he a good player when he is right, but that’s going on what we have seen, and we have not seen a lot. Now this could be a sort of strategy on his part. He knows he only has “x” numbers of trips around the bases left in him. So, why waste them in Spring Training? He could be just taking it easy, waiting for the right moment to start playing, which could be a smart move. You need to think his long term perspective, isn’t really with the Mets. I think with Met fans that’s the best thing you can hope for, that he is saving it for when it means something, and that he is going to have a very good year.

NYSC: If you have the attitude, ‘don’t believe the Mets in whatever they say’; do you have doubts in Johan Santana’s timetable?

David Waldstein: Well I think he is on track for what I have always hoped for, and understood that he is on track for. Coming back sometime, maybe all-star game, maybe later, but not ever being the pitcher in 2011 he once was, and looking towards 2012 to being Johan Santana again.

NYSC: What is he doing right now?

David Waldstein: He is playing catch. This is the really dull part of any rehab, especially with the shoulder. You are going to play catch for a couple of months. Imagine that. That’s your job, to play catch. Anyway, I don’t see any catastrophe with Santana yet, that doesn’t mean he is going to come back and with the Cy Young award, but it is a long slow process coming back from that surgery.

NYSC: I am going to take a page out of Joe Benigno’s book and say, “Originally Terry Collins said he wants second base to be an offensive position, and if Luis Castillo wins the job, it certainly would be offensive to many Met fans,” is that a real possibility?

David Waldstein: Hahaha, it is an unlikely one, I suppose it is a possibility. There are so many factors at stake, if Luis Castillo somehow wasn’t perceived as this really negative figure to Met fans, I think he would be the opening day second basemen. But I think the Mets kind of want to flex their muscles and say, ‘hey, we are not afraid to release this guy’, and so they will probably end up releasing him. It is not a good sign for any of the four guys Terry Collins has already had competing that Luis Hernandez has been added to the mix. I mean [Collins] was supposed to cut down the group, at second base, and then we found out last weekend, it was expanding (laughs). Luis Hernandez is a nice player, he is very good defensively, he had a nice year at triple-A last year, but he is not a prospect, he is a Marlin Anderson type guy.

NYSC: Originally the Mets hoped this would be a tough decision to make, due to good performances for multiple guys. Yet it has been tough because no one has really set themselves apart from the pack. Sandy Alderson said, going 3-4 on a given day will not win the job, what other factors does the decision boil down to?

David Waldstein: Well there are things like contractual status. For example Brad Emaus, if he does not make the Opening Day roster, they have to offer him back. Castillo’s contractual situation, which would be $6 million going down the toilet. And then Justin Turner is a guy who they did not even see as a guy to call up during a lot of their infield troubles last year, I don’t expect him to get any more chances this year. I mean there are a lot of factors. You have different guys supporting different people. I think J.P. Riccardi who used to be the GM in Tororontolikes Brad Emaus, he thinks he can hit. And there is Murhphy, who I forgot about. Look it’s the Major Leagues, if you cant turn a double play, and I am not saying he cant. But noone has seen it yet, and they don’t know if he can. Well than you cant play for the New York Mets at second base.

NYSC: I have had Adam Rubin and Andy Martino on, and they both said the perception of Luis Castillo by the players is much different than the way the players perceive him, do you also find this to be the case?

David Waldstein: Yes, I think so. I look at Luis Castillo’s body of work, he has won Gold Gloves, he has won a World Series, he was the number two hitter on a World Series champion team. He was hobbled by severe foot pain last year. He has been a standup guy in the past. Reyes loves him, loves playing with him. And that dynamic between a second basemen and a shortstop is not unimportant. And yeah I think he does get a bad rap. Maybe there are other components… but I do think he gets a bad rap.

Check back tomorrow for part 2 of the conversation.

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