The Mets resolved their surplus at the catching position Sunday when Rod Barajas departed on a waiver claim by the Dodgers, the team’s latest move to aid in Josh Thole’s rapid development behind the plate.
“It’s bittersweet,” Barajas said. “I enjoyed being with the club, enjoyed being around the guys. I’ve had a lot of fun this year here, things started out great. It’s tough to leave, but at the same time I wasn’t sure how much playing time was going to come my way. It’s mixed emotions definitely.”
Barajas signed late with the Mets, who had targeted Bengie Molina over the winter, but turned out to be a surprising offensive force early in the season. Through the first two months, Barajas had 11 home runs and 30 RBI in 41 games while the rest of the Mets’ lineup sputtered.
But his season unraveled from that point. Barajas batted .169 (17-for-104) with only four extra-base hits, including one homer, since June 1 and spent three weeks on the disabled list with a strained left oblique.
He made only one start after his return, Thursday in Houston, and manager Jerry Manuel called him into his office Sunday morning to tell him the news. To take his place, outfielder Jesus Feliciano was called up from Triple-A Buffalo. Barajas grew up only 20 miles from Dodger Stadium, and his parents still live in the Los Angeles area, so he welcomed the switch.
“That’s my team,” Barajas said. “That was a childhood dream. To get an opportunity to put the uniform on it’s definitely going to be one of the high points of my career. I love LA. I’m an LA guy. If I could pick a team it would probably be that one.”
The affable Barajas meshed quickly with the Mets and became fast friends with David Wright, Jeff Francoeur and Jason Bay. The foursome were not only card-playing buddies in the clubhouse, but changed the core personality of the Mets from recent years, and that chemistry seemed to be a factor in the club’s early momentum.
Shortly after Barajas went bad, however, the Mets also began to wobble, and they have yet to recover from their post-break nosedive.
“It was disappointing,” Barajas said. “We were excited. I think all the Mets fans in New York were excited. Things were going great. Even to the all-star break we were in a pretty decent spot. Once the struggles came for myself and the team, it kind of took a little bit of the excitement out of it. It just didn’t go in the right direction. It was not what we anticipated after the start that we had.”