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Central Casting: Year Three

It seems amazing that our little blog can already have traditions, but here we are at the third annual edition of Spring Training Central Casting, in which players from the 2007 edition of Port St. Lucie are assigned to the unchaning roles that await players in every camp every year. (If you're feeling historically minded, here's the 2005 edition [1], and the 2006 one [2]. Does anyone still remember who Joe Nelson was.)
I do note that I'm late this year — in our two previous campaigns, this feature made its appearance with plenty of February left to go. Interesting. One thing I've noticed about 2007 is my co-blogger and I seem to have switched spring roles. Normally around this time Greg would be going through his annual worry that this year's Met team doesn't grab him the way all the others have, which I would find amusing during whatever moments I wasn't spending scribbling incredibly detailed scenarios for the makeup of the middle-relief corps or trying to will April to arrive more quickly. This year I'm the one keeping a calm and sometimes slightly distracted eye on what everybody's doing down there in Florida, while Greg keeps the home fires blazing. That's where the turnabout ends, though — I know in three weeks I'm going to either be daydreaming about October because we're 5-2 or drinking antifreeze because we're 2-5, and any idea of being disengaged will be hilarious.
But that's still three weeks from now. Tonight I lay in bed watching Mets vs. Red Sox (though it was more like Mets vs. Alumni), except for the innings I snoozed through and the times I was checking on March Madness. (Which I could give a rat's ass about but find vaguely interesting for its value as a spectacle, like a big ethnic parade in New York City.) I woke up long enough to fret mechanically about Billy Wagner, chuckle at Keith discussing Wagner's spearing a liner as “purely reactionary” (as if Wags had caught the ball and screamed “MARRIAGE CAN ONLY BE BETWEEN A MAN AND A WOMAN!”) and pity poor Robert Paulk, pressed into warming up despite wearing 90 and apparently being 11 years old. Happily, he stayed over there on the sidelines and the game ended in relatively normal fashion. (Turns out Paulk turned 26 yesterday. There is no way this is possible.)
Anyhoo, your spring-training roles and the Mets bidding to fill them:
Guy Who's About to Burst Onto the Scene: Last year I wrote that Mike Pelfrey and Lastings Milledge would get a write-in vote and then get assigned to minor-league camp, which was more or less accurate. This year, it's those two in a rout, even though one or both will most likely have to wait in the wings in New Orleans.
Guy MIA Because of Visa Problems: Chan Ho Park. I did wonder if the rule against him performing in an exhibition for which attendance was charged meant you needed a work visa to be a Marlin. How could Jeff Loria miss this chance to save some more loose change?
Journeyman Who Just Might Stick: David Newhan. This slot is usually something of a left-handed compliment, as it generally goes to a lefty specialist or pinch-hitter who can't play defense and disappears by Memorial Day.
Minor Leaguer in Awe of It All: We don't seem to have one of these this year, which is for the best. You'd try to typecast Joe Smith in this role, but he doesn't seem particularly in awe of anything. (Though perhaps names that communicate something other than utter anonymity frighten him, or at least his parents.)
Minor Leaguer With an Interesting Story: It goes retroactively to Joe Hietpas, before now notable solely for being the beneficiary of the only in-game move made by Art Howe that I applauded with real feeling: After spending September glued to the dugout rail, Young Joe was sent out to catch for the final half-inning of 2004. Facing the distinct possibility of that being his entire big-league career, Hietpas will now become a pitcher. Good luck with that.
Guy in the Best Shape of His Career: The easy move would be to give it to Julio Franco, but even Captain Egg White has seemed fragile this spring, and for all his value as a wise old hand and unofficial coach, he can't really hit anymore and doesn't make a lot of sense as a backup first baseman, a job that should really go to Shawn Green. So I'm giving it to Lastings Milledge, who no longer seems to play with a life-size replica of the True Cross smacking him in the face, fall down in the outfield, or routinely piss off the veterans. Lastings is just shy of 22; it would be insane to give up on him.
Comeback Feel-Good Story: Juan Padilla, all but forgotten amid the glitter and roar of 2006. (I'd confused him with Jose Parra, which isn't right considering his contributions in 2005.) Padilla's huge smile coming off the mound after his first inning of work this spring left it a little dusty for a moment in the Fry house.
Guy Enjoying His Last Go-Round: Tom Glavine? He's been remarkably quiet this spring, maybe because he finally doesn't have to spend each day answering 44 variations on the question, “Do you ever regret leaving a perennial divison winner for a pathetic outfit like this one?”
Guy Who's Just Happy to Be Here: Carlos Beltran. And this is a Good Thing.
Guy Who Works Harder Than Anybody: Duaner Sanchez. Ha ha.
Guy in New Surroundings: Moises Alou.
Guy Going Back to His Roots: Shawn Green, what with all the talk of batting stances and timing mechanisms and hitches. Keep digging, Shawn.
Guy Who Doesn't Take It Too Seriously: Duan — oh, that's enough. Let's give it to El Duque, who seems to approach everything from a bases-loaded jam to a hurt neck with a placid countenance and a quiet faith that he'll figure something out.
Guy Who Knows He'll Be Elsewhere: Farewell, Alay Soler. You leave behind mental snapshots of some very good starts, some very bad starts, and one extremely expensive rookie card.
Guy Swearing You'll See Him in July: One word, two syllables, infinite hope. Pedro.
Guy Who's Making This Team, Dammit: Lastings, but he's wrong. Hello, Ben Johnson.
Guy Who's Buying a Suit Because He's Headed North: I'm betting on Mr. Smith Goes to Gotham.Though that picture's opening could be delayed until May or June while various re-releases fail to draw a crowd.
Guy Under the Microscope: Aaron Heilman, again. John Maine and Oliver Perez have largely escaped the casting agents for this one because so far they've pitched well. Heilman's been hurt (mildly, we hope) and remains uncomfortable in a role he clearly doesn't like.
Guy Who Is Just So Damn Selfless: Happily, we've got several candidates. I'll give it to Glavine, for trying to calm down Philip Humber.
Guy Who Doesn't Know Why the Hell He's Here, Either: I guess a few weeks in the sunshine with meal money to spend at Applebee's beat whatever else it was Ruben Sierra, Andy Tracy, Sandy Alomar and The Other Jose Reyes could have been doing with themselves.
Guy Who Would Like to Remind You He Is NOT, in Fact, Armando Benitez: This one was cooked up last year as a one-off joke at the expense of poor Jorge Julio, who got booed on Opening Day — before he ever threw an official Met pitch — for the crime of bearing an uncanny resemblance to our throughly unlamented ex-closer. But between Ambiorix Burgos' live arm and penchant for giving up grand slams, it's back. Ulp.
Guy Who Already Went to New York for an MRI: El Duque. Happily, it was of his neck.