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Pelfrey not concerned about bumpy spring training

New York Mets' Mike Pelfrey warms up in

New York Mets' Mike Pelfrey warms up in the first inning of a spring training baseball game against the Boston Red Sox. (March 17, 2010) Photo Credit: AP

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - Omar Minaya and four other members of the Mets' front office decided to take in yesterday's game against the Cardinals from seats behind home plate.

It gave Minaya a chance to interact with fans, some of whom came over to sit next to and chat with the general manager, who happily signed autographs and posed for pictures.

It also gave Minaya an excellent spot to see Mike Pelfrey give up three home runs, including one to Albert Pujols that would have traveled about 450 feet if it hadn't struck high up on the blue batter's background 410 feet away in dead centerfield.

Pelfrey has given up seven home runs in his last two games after being rocked for 12 hits and six runs in 5 2/3 innings yesterday in the Mets' 10-5 loss. The No. 2 starter's spring ERA stands at 7.97 with one outing to go.

"Pelfrey's been working a lot on his off-speed pitches this spring," Minaya said. "There's some things that he's been working on."

Ducking needs to be one of them. Last time, Pelfrey had the wind in Viera to blame for three of the four home runs hit by the Nationals. This time, Pelfrey was similarly unruffled even though two of the home runs hit by the Cardinals were no-doubters that temporarily wiped the smile off Minaya's face.

"I'm not too worried about it," Pelfrey said. "I actually felt pretty good. Secondary stuff, I thought, was good. It was a good day."

Pelfrey's optimistic appraisal of the afternoon is a perfect opening for the debate about whether spring training performance matters. Do back-to-back home runs by Colby Rasmus and Ryan Ludwick in the third and the gargantuan shot by Pujols in the fifth - and the nine other hits the Cardinals had - portend regular-season doom for Pelfrey?

He doesn't think so.

"I think in '07 I had the best spring training I've ever had and I started out 0-7," Pelfrey said. "I don't think it really matters. It's spring training, and when they turn the lights on, it's a totally different game. I'll be happy to get out of Florida, though, that's for sure."

At its worst, the Mets' rotation could be a like a winning hand in five-card stud: an ace and four fives. Pelfrey is the team's best hope to step up and become a worthy No. 2 to Johan Santana and lessen the Mets' dependence on John Maine (7.94 spring ERA), Oliver Perez (5.87) and Jonathon Niese (5.59).

But to do that, Pelfrey has to better last season's 5.03 ERA. He hopes the time he has spent this spring developing his secondary pitches will help accomplish that, even it means he has to take a few exhibition-game lumps. And yesterday's outing was particularly lumpy, even if the Mets took a see-no-evil approach.

"We got to 100 pitches today , and like I said, my secondary stuff is the best it's been," Pelfrey said. "It's good. So when it comes around April 7, 8 and 9, all three of us, we're going to be ready."

Said pitching coach Dan Warthen: "It's been a strange spring as far as I'm concerned weather-wise. I've seen a lot of home runs hit to dead centerfield. Some on good pitches and some certainly on bad pitches. But Maine and Pelfrey, Santana and even Oliver, I'm very pleased with the way they're throwing the baseball and locating pitches."

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