PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — If Mets outfield prospect Tim Tebow is going to have trouble with the curve, it won’t be revealed for at least a few more days.
During the fall Instructional League, the repertoire of Mets pitchers is limited to fastballs and changeups. At least until Wednesday, when the Mets play the Cardinals, Tebow will not have to contend with breaking balls, which have been the undoing of many a prospect with good swing mechanics.
On Monday, though, Tebow had trouble enough with fastballs and changeups in his two plate appearances during the Mets’ first intrasquad game, striking out swinging both times.
In Tebow’s first at-bat, 21-year-old Dominican righthander Harol Gonzalez, who pitched this season for the Class-A short season Brooklyn Cyclones, fanned the lefty-swinging Tebow on an 82-mph changeup on a 1-and-2 count, doubling up on the same pitch Tebow had swung over on 1-and-1.
On the second pitch of that at-bat, which Tebow took for a called strike, two Mets baserunners executed a delayed double steal, which scored a run. In Instructional League, however, no one is keeping score.
Instructional League “games” rarely follow the structure of an actual game. To give players more experience in situations, runners will be put on base.
In fact, after Tebow’s first strikeout, he was put on first base, but that did not last long. Jose Median, an outfielder who played this season in the Class-A Midwest League, hit a grounder to the second baseman on the first pitch to him and Tebow was forced out at second.
Tebow swung and missed on a 93-mph fastball from 23-year-old Dominican Ronald Sanchez, a onetime Cardinals prospect who the Mets signed a year ago. Sanchez pitched this season for the Mets’ Gulf Coast League team after missing the previous two seasons.
Tebow made his first contact on the first pitch from Sanchez, fouling off a 94-mph fastball. After taking another fastball inside, he dribbled an 84-mph changeup foul, took another ball and then swung and missed on a 93-mph fastball.
After the intrasquad game, Tebow was not available for questions but spent a solid 15 minutes signing autographs for many of the 100 or so people who had come to the game, mostly to see him. Nearly all of the fans wore some combination of blue and orange, either with a Mets or Florida Gators logo. Tebow signed several footballs and football helmets, and even a fishing pole, but only a few baseballs.