5:04 pm May. 31, 2012
If you fear that Jeremy Hefner's Tuesday night performance was a fluke, if you have recurring nightmares about another Chris Schwinden start, if you believe that Miguel Batista is an argument against the idea that life begins at 40, fear not: Pitching help is on the way.
Chris Young pitched six scoreless innings on Thursday morning for the Buffalo Bisons, his first Triple-A start in his attempt to return from shoulder surgery that ended his 2011 season.
Young pitched at 81-82 miles per hour with his fastball in the opening inning, then 84 in his second. That's close enough to the 84.7 he averaged to provide hope that he can get to his level of effectiveness from last season, but still at a low enough level that any further degrading in his fastball velocity is still cause for concern.
His command wasn't great, either. He walked three, fell behind 3-0 a couple of other times, and seemed to have trouble throwing his curveball for strikes. He didn't look quite ready to return, but the start represented a step forward.
Still, the concern with Young is less about whether he could perform well once on the mound at Citi Field, and more about how long he can do so. His six scoreless innings were filled with seemingly hittable fastballs up in the strike zone. The conventional wisdom is that major league hitters would crush those the way Triple-A hitters didn't. But Young has always worked up in the zone on seemingly hittable pitches, and still thrived. So that's not a real problem; that's who he is.
Getting hurt has also been a part of who Young is. He made just four starts in 2011 before breaking down. He made just four starts in 2010. And he hasn't made more than 18 starts in a season since 2007.
One other note of warning: his success in both 2010 and 2011 came in extremely homer-unfriendly parks, first Petco Park in San Diego, then Citi Field. But after the adjustment in dimensions this winter, Citi Field is a far more hospitable place for fly balls. Young could have less success in New York with exactly the same results, since more than 66 percent of the balls put in play against Young were fly balls last year.
Still, the alternatives are uninspiring. The Mets already have one pitcher exceeding expectations following shoulder surgery in Johan Santana. In this unlikely campaign, what's one more player to come to New York and beat the odds?