Very interesting talking to Angel Pagan and Brady Clark yesterday. I think Pagan will stick, and hope both do.
They were the focus of my story in today’s paper.
VIERA, Fla. _ It is one of the rites of spring, when a veteranâ€™s injury becomes the opportunity to make or extend anotherâ€™s career.
Fate could come in the form of a sprained ankle, sore shoulder, tight hamstring or even a hernia.
Moises Alou will be out from four to six weeks after undergoing hernia surgery yesterday, leaving a hole in left field Angel Pagan and Brady Clark desperately want to fill.
“Itâ€™s like they said, `Thereâ€™s no crying in baseball,â€™ â€™â€™ Mets manager Willie Randolph said. “Itâ€™s a tough break, but what are you going to do?â€™â€™
General manager Omar Minaya will monitor the trade market for teams with a surplus in outfielders, but said a deal is more likely to be made toward the end of spring training.
Randolph said after last nightâ€™s game against Washington was rained out it was possible his Opening Day outfielder is already on the roster.
Theoretically, Endy Chavez is first in line, but hasnâ€™t played all spring while trying to come back from ankle and hamstring injuries, leaving Pagan and Clark the prime beneficiaries.
Both have been getting more playing time than normal because of injuries to Chavez and Carlos Beltran.
“I donâ€™t feel happy about the injuries, but at the same time it gives me an opportunity to show them what I can do,â€™â€™ said Pagan, who has made an impression with his athleticism and .429 average.
“I am happy with how I am playing. The hard work in the off-season is paying off.â€™â€™
With the chiseled physique of a cruiserweight, Pagan worked out with weights and on the speed bag.
“The speed bag keeps your shoulders strong,â€™â€™ he said. “You need that late in the season.â€™â€™
Once the Metsâ€™ fourth-round pick in the 1999 draft, Pagan played all three outfield positions last season for the Chicago Cubs and hit .264 with four homers and 21 RBI.
He said he was “thrilled,â€™â€™ when the Mets traded for him in January.
“The Mets were my first team,â€™â€™ Pagan said. “They didnâ€™t know me as a player when they first traded me. I want to show them how different I am as a player and how much I can help the team.
“Iâ€™m better because of the experience. When youâ€™re in the big leagues youâ€™re in touch with veteran guys and they teach you how to play baseball the right way. They make you a better player just by watching them.â€™â€™
Randolph said Pagan might be “one of the best athletes we have in camp.â€™â€™ Minaya said he was attractive because of his versatility and ability to switch-hit.
Paganâ€™s athleticism will earn him a job somewhere.
Clark is at the opposite end of the spectrum. Heâ€™s 34 years old and wears a defensive linemanâ€™s number _ 93 _ indicating heâ€™s a longer shot.
Clark can also play all three outfield positions. Heâ€™s a .278 lifetime hitter that means heâ€™s not an automatic out. He has 36 lifetime homers.
Heâ€™s what they call a journeyman player, and his steamer trunk would have stickers from Cincinnati, the Mets in 2002, Milwaukee, Los Angeles and San Diego.
“I am getting an opportunity to play,â€™â€™ said Clark, who is hitting .273 this spring. “Thatâ€™s all I can ask for.â€™â€™
In describing himself as a player, Clark said he “plays from the heart â€¦ I will do whatever I can.
“In 20 years, I want them to say about me that I did everything I could to be the best player I could.â€™â€™
Thatâ€™s why he went out and got a first basemanâ€™s glove, knowing thereâ€™s little depth behind Carlos Delgado.
“You never know when youâ€™ll get your opportunity,â€™â€™ Clark said.
That attitude impresses Randolph, who said Clark isnâ€™t the athlete of Paganâ€™s caliber, but brings other elements to the table.
“Heâ€™s a scrappy and gritty player,â€™â€™ Randolph said. “Heâ€™s a nice guy to have on the team if we can get him on the team.â€™â€™