The amount of information available about players is staggering. Scouting reports are more sophisticated than ever. But when the Mets faces 20-year-old Marlins phenom Jose Fernandez on Sunday afternoon, they may have to resort to the most basic level of scouting: word of mouth.
While the Mets have seen tape of Fernandez, the highly touted prospect who is making his big league debut, nobody on the roster has actually faced him. So, manager Terry Collins expects there will be plenty of chatter in the dugout after ever at-bat.
"They don't like to go up there confused, so these guys can be very dangerous to face," Collins said of facing new pitchers. "Obviously, all the tape and stuff that we've seen on him, he's legit -- 95 to 97, good curveball, changeup is a little bit of a work in progress -- but it looks like plus stuff. So, we better have some patience today. When you face a young hitter who's amped up, one thing you can't do is make the game easy for him. So, make him work."
However, when it comes to handling nerves, few pitchers may be more qualified than Fernandez. From the Palm Beach Post:
Ask Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez if he is nervous about making his major-league debut Sunday against the New York Mets, and the 20-year-old phenom recalls dodging bullets that were fired at the boat he and his family used to flee Cuba five years ago.
"After that I’m not scared about anything else,” he said Saturday at Citi Field, recalling his family’s defection after three unsuccessful attempts. “I’ve been in jail, I’ve been shot at, I’ve been in the water. I’m not scared to face David Wright. What can he do?”
The Mets might not know him well. But Collins said it's clear that Hernandez's stuff is "electric." However, it's also important to note that Hernandez has never pitched above High-A.
Outfield shuffle: During his pregame media briefing, Collins reiterated that he intends to mix and match in the outfield. On Sunday, Mike Baxter remained in the lineup after going 1-for-3 with a pair of walks in his first start on Saturday. Collin Cowgill returned to the starting lineup for the first time since Thursday.
"In a perfect world, you'd like to have your three guys out there," Collins said.
Instead, he will cycle through his outfielders, trying to keep each of them sharp with playing time. The task gets a tad easier next week, when the Mets play a weekend series in Minnesota, their first games this season with the designated hitter.
Rest for Buck: Collins had to resist the temptation to start 32-year-old catcher John Buck, who had played in all five of the Mets' previous games. But the manager followed through on his plate to give him a breather, one day after Buck collided with Juan Pierre on a bizarre play near home plate.
"Two times now he's gone day game after night game," Collins said. "That wears you out. I tell you, I saw the replay of yesterday. We're lucky he's not out for awhile. If that leg would have been solid on the ground, he could have had some leg issues."
Plenty of Laffey: Lefthander Aaron Laffey will make his first start in place of injured righthander Shaun Marcum. Even if Marcum recovers quickly from nerve inflammation in his neck -- just the latest in a series of maladies that have sidelined him since March 16 -- Collins said Laffey may get two or three more starts.
Laffey was 4-6 with a 4.56 ERA in 22 games last season for the Blue Jays. Backup catcher Anthony Recker is making his first start of the season. The lineups:
Juan Pierre LF
Donovan Solano 2B
Giancarlo Stanton RF
Greg Dobbs 1B
Justin Ruggiano CF
Rob Brantly C
Adeiny Hechavarria SS
Chris Valaika 3B
Jose Fernandez RHP
Collin Cowgill CF
Daniel Murphy 2B
David Wright 3B
Ike Davis 1B
Mike Baxter RF
Lucas Duda LF
Ruben Tejada SS
Anthony Recker C
Aaron Laffey LHP