Third Man for Fifth Spot

If you listened to my interview on Gotham Sports Radio, you already know who is my sleeper for the fifth spot in the rotation.

But if you haven’t gotten around to downloading it yet (and you should, I give away some other interesting tidbits), I’ll offer you my “dark horse” candidate for the role.

Jason Vargas.

Say what you want, but the pitcher you saw in spot starts in May and July of last year was not the “real” Jason Vargas. He was definitely affected by an elbow injury, which has since been corrected thanks to the removal of a bone spur in October. The Vargas the Mets traded for threw in the 92-93 range, and the one we saw last year was only in the upper 80s.

During my visit to Port St. Lucie, I watched Vargas throw from close range … in fact, I was close enough to spit on him. From my estimation, he was definitely throwing around the 89-91 range, with good location in the bottom of the zone — he was throwing to “the strings”, which are strings set up with wooden posts at the bottom of the strike zone.

Here are some more shots of Vargas during that session.

In the windup
Jason Vargas pitching

The follow through.

Vargas follow through

Working on the “OK” changeup grip. It’s called the “OK Change” because you do the “OK” sign with your fingers and hold the ball with your other three.
Vargas OK change grip

Rick Peterson watching and offering instruction.

Rick Peterson watches Jason Vargas

A view from the catcher’s side, with bullpen coach Guy Conti setting up as a batter. Look closely at this photo and you’ll see another onlooker in the background, in a black pullover.

Guy Conti and the strings

And guess who that guy in the black pullover is?

Omar Minaya at Tradition Field

Guess I’m not the only one interested in Vargas’ road to recovery.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. isuzudude March 3, 2008 at 7:07 am
    “Working on the “OK” changeup grip. It’s called the “OK Change” because you do the “OK” sign with your fingers and hold the ball with your other three.”

    Is this also the aforementioned circle-changeup grip? If not, whats the difference?

    BTW – I did listen to the show and sent a commnt over the website for the host to ask you but he must not have gotten it. Good to actually “hear” your opinions for a change, Joe.

  2. joe March 3, 2008 at 8:46 am
    Yes — the “OK” and “Circle” change are the same pitch. Same reason — because you create a circle by touching your index finger to your thumb.

    Thanks for pointing it out!

    Yeah, I saw that you posted a question, sorry it didn’t make it through. There was supposed to be a call-in at the end but I must have blabbed too much. Thanks for listening!

  3. whatdatmean March 3, 2008 at 2:56 pm
    finally, some VARGAS talk….I love this kids stuff.
    he was a great pickup by the Mets in the trade that most fans kill. Young, aggressive-LEFTY…his style is something we need. From what i have seen and heard, he attacks the zone and comes right at you. He is fearless on the mound, im sure he wants to get back his old starting spot, which makes him dangerous.
    he had some success with the marlins before being shipped out. he is still developing, but has a good a shot as any to make this team.
    He is one of the reasons show & sosa are expendible…plus, he has more upside. wouldnt mind seeing him at the 5 while Duq is hurt, atleast until Pelf gets his off speed stuff on lock.
  4. […] a (straight-guy type) love affair that began when Vargas was with the Marlins, and solidified after I watched him up-close in spring training 2008. So maybe I’m […]