What If Pelfrey Pitches Well Tonight?

After seeing him struggle mightily in his first four starts of the season, we as Mets fans naturally would like to see Mike Pelfrey pitch well for a change.

However, if he does pitch well, there could be a drama brewing behind the scenes.

Because tonight, Mike Nickeas gets another start behind the plate. It could be argued that he’s in the lineup because Arizona starter Joe Saunders is a lefty, and Josh Thole struggles against lefties. Fair point.

Additionally, Nickeas hit his first MLB homer last night, and seems to be swinging the bat well. Again, fair point.

Also, there is the idea that the Mets just won for the first time in a week, so why mess with success? Trot out that same lineup again if you can.

All good points, I’m sure you agree. But, there’s another less-obvious reason why Nickeas should be getting the start, and might be getting another start five days from now: his ability to communicate.

Those who watched last night’s win no doubt noticed that Chris Capuano pitched well, and rarely shook off Nickeas — the two had a good rapport, and Capuano was apparently pleased with Nickeas’ game calling. In contrast, Thole and Pelfrey have had some trouble being “on the same page” — to the point where Pelfrey all but criticized Thole’s pitch selections. One must wonder: if there was a righthander on the mound for Arizona tonight, and Nickeas hadn’t hit his first big-league homer, would Nickeas still be getting the start? More importantly, if Pelfrey goes out and pitches six or seven strong innings, and Nickeas gains his trust, what does that mean for Josh Thole?

Nickeas caught Pelfrey in his last start against Atlanta, and the end result wasn’t anything to write home about — 5 innings, 11 hits, one walk, 4 earned runs. Despite the high hit total, I saw a mild improvement in the consistency of his mechanics and in turn, his command — might that have been because he was less concerned with the fingers thrown down by Nickeas and therefore able to focus on repeating his delivery? I could be reaching, but it’s a possibility.

Considering how important Pelfrey is to the Mets’ rotation, it will be interesting to see what transpires tonight. If Pelfrey struggles again, I would think that the Mets consider sending him to the bullpen — or the minors — to work on things when Chris Young comes off the DL. If Big Pelf has a strong outing, Mike Nickeas may find himself with another start behind the plate in five days — regardless of who pitches for the opposition. In turn, Ronny Paulino may be held back in rehab for another day or so.

Opinion and Analysis

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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.

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