PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - Nelson Figueroa, who is unlikely to win a job on the Opening Day roster, made sure a bunch of Little Leaguers in Section 111 didn't go home empty-handed from Tradition Field Sunday.
When Figueroa whiffed Michigan second baseman Anthony Toth to end the third inning, it earned the entire section tacos as part of a Mets promotion. And Figueroa played it up, too, flashing a wide grin and pointing to the kids before he walked off the mound.
Once Figueroa got two strikes on Toth, he said to himself, "I've definitely got to get them their tacos here."
It was a nice moment of levity for Figueroa, who is growing increasingly frustrated by his place on the Mets' depth chart. The Michigan game was not official, so Figueroa's streak of scoreless innings remains intact at eight. He can't understand why the Mets don't consider him a serious candidate for a 25-man roster spot to start the season.
"You wonder who's the one who's holding you back, whose eyes aren't open," Figueroa said. "The staff that saw me day in and day out last year, I think they believe in me that I was kept on the roster, and you hope it's for a reason, other than keeping me from going anyplace else."
Figueroa went 3-8 with a 4.09 ERA last season in 16 games, including 10 starts, but the Mets don't think of him as anything more than an insurance policy. That explains why teammates have hung the gecko from the Geico ad on his locker.
"I had the stack of money [with the eyes] one time, and the caveman last year when I had long hair," Figueroa said. "I wanted to get my phone number on the Citi Field [Geico] sign last season just in case."
But Figueroa sounds as if he doesn't plan on waiting around. If he doesn't make the roster and clears waivers (he's 6-for-6 in his career), Figueroa might take a lucrative deal in Japan rather than go to Triple-A Buffalo. "I've been playing for 15 years and I haven't made a million dollars," Figueroa said. "I'd like some security for my family, of course."
With yesterday's rainout, the Mets will start Mike Pelfrey against the Nationals in Viera, followed by Bobby Parnell, Sean Green, Ryota Igarashi and Jenrry Mejia. Pedro Feliciano, who was pulled from Thursday's game after getting hit on the kneecap, will throw a side session . . . Jerry Seinfeld was in attendance for the second time in as many days and chatted with Fred Wilpon in the second-row seats.