Young vs. old is one of the story lines you’ll read about every spring. In the Mets’ camp this year I profiled Orlando Hernandez vs. Mike Pelfrey.
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. _Itâ€™s always one of the stories of spring.
Thereâ€™s the grizzled veteran combating the rigors of time with the hope of recapturing a moment from his youth.
Attempting to keep him from another summer in the sun is the young buck with no conception of time or the years ahead of him.
In the Metsâ€™ camp it is Orlando Hernandez, penciled in as the fifth starter, who is trying to defy time and an aching right foot by reinventing himself with a new delivery.
His has been a full and eventful career, beginning with those recordless years in Cuba, then his escape to the Yankees and fame and fortune.
Hernandez is hanging on to baseball glory with the Mets, but standing in his way is Mike Pelfrey.
“I know a lot of people are saying I will go in the bullpen,â€™â€™ Hernandez defiantly said after throwing a simulated game yesterday, then tapping his chest, added, “Iâ€™m Orlando Hernandez. Iâ€™m going to the mound.â€™â€™
There are still three weeks to sort all that out, but for now the only mound Hernandez is on is in the bullpen.
The forty-something craftsman threw for roughly a half hour yesterday morning with his new-and-improved delivery designed to alleviate pressure from his right, or push-off foot.
Hernandez said, “I felt more comfortable,â€™â€™ but what he didnâ€™t say was that he felt totally comfortable or his new delivery had become second nature.
Hernandezâ€™s answer to when that might be was a quiet, “I donâ€™t know.â€™â€™
Manager Willie Randolph said if Hernandez is fine today, then the next step could be a simulated game.
“Then we can see about slotting him in the rotation,â€™â€™ Randolph said.
Realistically, we might not see Hernandez for another week, but even so, he insists heâ€™ll be ready by Opening Day.
After injury _ he will never concede to age as an opponent _ Hernandezâ€™s biggest obstacle for the fifth spot in the rotation is Pelfrey, the No. 1 pick in the 2005 draft.
If Hernandez is healthy, experience and $6.5 million salary should place him in the rotation. That will be tough for Pelfrey to overcome, but if Hernandez isnâ€™t on his game things could be wide open.
Of course, Pelfrey has to be ready to answer the door when opportunity knocks, which wasnâ€™t the case yesterday.
“I donâ€™t know if there is even a spot, but I didnâ€™t help myself,â€™â€™ said Pelfrey, who gave up seven runs on seven hits in 3 1/3 innings in a 12-4 loss to the Florida Marlins.
Worse than giving up hits was giving into the hitters. Thereâ€™s nothing that eats at a pitcher than a walk, unless it is four of them.
“That was me last year,â€™â€™ Pelfrey said. “I was falling behind in the count. I couldnâ€™t locate my fastball. I couldnâ€™t locate my slider.
“Iâ€™m very disappointed about today. I donâ€™t like the free passes.â€™â€™
Mechanically, Pelfreyâ€™s shoulder was flying open which caused his pitches to rise. That was a common thread in losing his first seven decisions last year.
“When he got in trouble he got up in the zone,â€™â€™ catcher Brian Schneider said. “He didnâ€™t have a good feel for it.â€™â€™