BY JOE RINI
Like a bee on a mission of revenge, injuries have stung the Mets frequently in 2016 and manager Terry Collins has had to look beyond the Mets bench to Triple-A Las Vegas and outside the organization for replacements. The Rockland County Times spoke to two of these new arrivals, rookie Ty Kelly and veteran James Loney, prior to the Amazins’ 4-3 loss to the Atlanta Braves at Citi Field on June 18.
Loney and Kelly traveled different routes to the Mets roster. The 32-year old Loney, acquired from the Padres, is a veteran of 10 major league seasons who sports a .285 career batting average while Kelly made his major league debut with the Mets on May 24 at the age of 27 after playing for four other organizations in the minors. Loney has been a steady presence in the Mets lineup since his debut while Kelly has been up and down between Las Vegas and New York twice in the last month (he was optioned back on June 22).
Speaking to me in front of the Mets dugout, Loney said he first met Terry Collins in 2002 when Collins was the Dodgers’ farm director and when I mentioned the “Dodger Way” of baseball to Loney, he said Collins brings those same qualities to the Mets, namely, “learning to play the game hard all the time…expecting to win” and “putting in the extra work” to do the things that help a team win even if it doesn’t show in the boxscore.
Loney has a confident and steady manner. Speaking of the long grind of the season, slumps, and what it takes to succeed in the majors, Loney said, “There are so many games in the season…oh-fers will come, but you have to come back from them…don’t be afraid to swing.”
A 13th round draft pick in 2009 and well traveled in the minors with a respectful demeanor, it’s easy to hope Kelly finds success like Loney. I asked him if he was ever discouraged during his long travail to the majors and he admitted, “Yes…you do well and don’t get called up and wonder what you have to do” in addition to dealing with the times when one isn’t playing well.
I was curious how Kelly manages to “stay within” himself when his opportunities to play for the Mets are sporadic and he said, “It’s tough…you don’t want to go over the top…but I’ve prepared for this in the minor leagues.” In a similar vein when speaking of being a role player in the majors, he said, “Try not to do too much…it’s tough not to want to hit a home run…but get an RBI here and there…fit in before you stand out.”
He smiled when I asked about playing for Wally Backman in Las Vegas. “Everyone wants to know. Wally is awesome to play for…gives it to you straight…wants you to do well,” and get called up to the Mets.
As for the rest of the Mets, if this article was a movie, the foreboding background music would begin playing at this point because of potential elbow problems facing Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz. Pitching was supposed to be a bulwark for the 2016 Mets so any injury to the starting staff is a major concern.
To help buoy the offense, the Mets re-signed Jose Reyes after his release by the Colorado Rockies following the completion of his suspension for violating MLB’s policy against domestic violence. While not the speedster of his youth, Reyes is expected to play a utility role in the field while trying to add some life to the Mets lineup after he completes a short stint in the minor leagues.
The Mets are in a difficult stretch of the season as they head into a 10 game homestand before the All-Star break. Having lost the first two games against the Nationals in Washington this week, the Mets enter play on Wednesday with a record of 40-36, five games behind the first place Nationals.