Chan Ho Park will be tested out of the bullpen this week. He’s not happy about it. Read about it in today’s editions of The Journal News.
By JOHN DELCOS
THE JOURNAL NEWS
(Original publication: March 25, 2007)
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. – In what could be interpreted as a sign that Willie Randolph is getting closer to making a decision on his fifth starter, the Mets’ manager pulled “Chan Ho Park”:http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/players/profile?statsId=5187 after three perfect innings yesterday and told him he would work out of the bullpen the rest of the spring.
Randolph, pitching coach Rick Peterson and general manager Omar Minaya told Park after the game he would work in relief three times this week, beginning Monday.
“He has been a starter his entire career,” Minaya said. “The right thing was to explain why.”
Park was not pleased with what he regards as a demotion.
“I feel I am a starter,” a dejected Park said. “That is who I am. I signed here to be a starter. If you’re asking me to be a reliever, then I am unhappy.”
The fifth-starter competition began with seven candidates at the start of spring training but has recently been pared to Park and Mike Pelfrey.
Pelfrey will not be tested out of the bullpen this week, meaning this sign couldn’t have been clearer had Randolph posted it in neon.
As a veteran pitcher, Park is aware roles change, and he could start the season in the bullpen only to end it in the rotation.
However, if there is no chance to get out of the pen, that would be a professional obstacle.
“I don’t think I would be in the bullpen all year,” Park said when asked if he would seek his release if the switch were permanent.
“If you told me I would never get out of the bullpen, I would have to think about (asking to be released).”
Minaya said Park did not ask for his release during the meeting.
Pelfrey, who will start today against Houston, clearly has pitched better than Park. Each has gotten four starts, with Pelfrey leading in ERA (1.29 to 6.57); runs scored against (four to 12); homers given up (one to three); and walks issued (one to seven).
Park’s nine up-nine down performance in yesterday’s 2-1 loss to Baltimore was his best outing, which was why he was caught off guard when Randolph informed him of his plans after the third.
“I didn’t want to get in the way of him preparing for the game,” said Randolph, who insisted nothing had been decided despite the logical deduction that Pelfrey has won the the job.
“We still have competition for the fifth starter.”
Park could still make the rotation with Pelfrey if Orlando Hernandez opens the season on the disabled list, but after El Duque worked six solid innings Friday, that possibility is becoming more remote.
The Mets will base their final decision on several factors, not the least of which is Pelfrey’s status as a first-round draft pick.
They would also like to see if Park is capable of working out of the bullpen. He did it earlier in his career, but over the past three seasons has appeared in only four games in relief, working 7 1/3 innings and compiling a 6.14 ERA with hitters batting .333 against him.
If Pelfrey is ready he will get the job, and considering how he has pitched this spring there can be no other conclusion.
Scott Schoeneweis went through an experience similar to what Park is faced with now when the right-hander was with Anaheim in 2002. For this to work, Schoeneweis said Park must embrace the change, something that obviously wasn’t happening yesterday.
“Your routine changes, everything changes, even silly things like when you eat,” said Schoeneweis, who started 32 games for the 2001 Angels and 15 the next season while appearing in 54 games.
“When I was moved, there was definitely an initial sting. You have to look at it as what you’re doing is important to the ballclub.
“With us that year, I knew we had a chance to go to the playoffs and I wanted to be a part of that.”
The question now is: What does Park want to be a part of?