2002-07-20 / Sports

Bacsik A Shot In The

Arm For The MetsBaseball Columnist
By Bryan Hoch

Arm For The Mets
Baseball Columnist

Mike Bacsik was standing at the bat rack in the empty Mets dugout last week, fifteen minutes before pitchers were scheduled to begin stretching and taking batting practice, nervously gripping his choice of lumber as he gazed out on the empty playing field.

"I must be young," he said in his soft-spoken Texas drawl. "We’ve got fifteen minutes to go and I’m the first one out here. I’m nervous."

Whatever jitters were going through the 24-year-old rookie lefthander’s system last Friday were hardly visible when he took the hill on Monday night, racking up his second victory in as many big league starts as he pitched the Mets to a complete game victory over the Florida Marlins.

Utilizing his fantastic change-up to keep the Marlins’ power hitters off balance, Bacsik struck out seven and gave the Mets what rotation mainstays Jeff D’Amico and Shawn Estes haven’t been able to on too many occasions this season – a quality pitching performance.

"Tonight, I threw everything I wanted to," Bacsik said. "Everybody likes to have games like that. I know as a rookie, every game's not going to be like this."

Perhaps not, but the Mets have to be thrilled with what they’ve seen from Bacsik, who was named Cleveland’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year last season yet was little more than a side note in December’s trade for Roberto Alomar.

Not only has he given the Mets two victories over the Florida Marlins, he also provides insurance should the Mets look to deal a starting pitcher.

That sort of scenario is one that seems increasingly likely as the Mets approach the July 31 trading deadline. The Atlanta Braves have opened up a huge lead on the National League East over New York, but club officials still believe that the league’s Wild Card could be within reach.

If so, the Mets would certainly give a thought to dealing Estes, who has not won since his ballyhooed performance over the Yankees on June 15 and has certainly lived up to his tagged reputation as being frustratingly inconsistent on the hill.

There isn’t thought to be any significant interest in D’Amico, who has been tagged with a loss in four of his last eight outings. The Mets might have to bite the bullet on the 6’7" righthander and stick him in the bullpen, or try a trip down to Triple-A Norfolk to find his command.

What Are The Odds?: The award for chance encounter of the week goes to Mets outfielder Tony Tarasco, who traveled out to Demarest, N.J. to serve as a guest instructor for a sports camp last Friday only to find that one of the camp’s counselors was one Jeffrey Maier.

Yes, that’s the same Maier who, as a twelve-year-old, reached out over the right field wall at Yankee Stadium to snag Derek Jeter’s fly ball in the 1996 ALCS. The out-turned-homer left the Orioles’ Tarasco crumpled at the base of the outfield wall, listening to the whoops and catcalls as the Yankees steamed into their first World Series since 1981.

It turns out, Maier’s flash of defense excellence that night was a sign of things to come. Soon to be a college freshman, Maier has signed on to play Division III baseball at Wesleyan College in the fall.

"He actually gets picked on in games of his by fans when he plays," Tarasco said. "Most people think he gets cheered for it all the time, but he's still trying to get past it. I told him, 'You'll never get past it, kid.'"

Just Win, Baby: The New York Post came up with two wild trade reports this past week that had the Mets talking shop with the Boston Red Sox regarding Mo Vaughn and bickering in the front office about acquiring Alex Rodriguez from the Texas Rangers, two deals which simply didn’t have any truth to them.

In fact, in speaking with club officials who preferred to remain nameless, word is that Mets GM Steve Phillips won’t be doing any fire sale dismantling of this club as some pundits have suggested.

With Fred Wilpon’s buyout of the club from co-owner Nelson Doubleday imminent, Phillips is under more pressure than he’ll let on to win now. Upon acquisition of the team, officials expect Wilpon’s son Jeff – currently heading up the minor league operations of the Brooklyn Cyclones on Coney Island – to move into a ritzy office at Shea Stadium.

There’s no love lost between Phillips and the younger Wilpon, who feels that Phillips is too visible of a general manager and involves himself within the clubhouse operations of the club too much.

Earlier this season, Phillips chewed out several Mets -- including Rey Ordonez and Jay Payton -- in a closed-door clubhouse meeting for perceived selfishness and lack of hustle, a tirade that drew bad press in New York and frowns from club management.

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