Let Mike Pelfrey go.
I write this without a hint of anger — as Willie Randolph notes sagely in today's Times, “with fifth starters, you don’t trip about this. All young pitchers go through that transition or phase. You have to get over that hump. Once he does, hopefully he’ll just take off.”
Wise words. But I think it's asking too much to demand that Pelfrey get over that hump in the big leagues, in a situation as public as public gets. It's not too much to ask for our sake — he is, as Willie notes, the fifth starter. But it's too much to ask of him.
Mike Pelfrey has less than 118 innings pitched in his entire professional career. If he disappeared until the first day of business at Citi Field, he'd be 25 years old. He is very young. He has time. But he looks like he needs it. His emotions seem to run too hot, particularly at the beginning of games. His attention wanders. His fastball is straight enough that he badly needs his secondary pitches to complement it, and his secondary pitches come and go rather unpredictably.
None of that is a terrible flaw — it's just evidence that he's 23 and hasn't pitched enough. He needs to get a bit tired of the whole thing, to reach the point where the novelty of pitching in pro ball wears off, to find that muscle memory is doing things without being directed by the brain. All the things that only come through repetition, from learning your craft so thoroughly that the neurons fire in the right bedrock patterns without being consciously directed. It'll come — I have no doubt of that. But it's becoming cruel to ask him to put the work in as a New York Met to make it so.
Let Pelfrey go down to New Orleans with the promise that he'll be back in September — maybe earlier if things go swimmingly. Let it be made clear to him that there's nothing more to this than that he needs more professional innings on his resume. Let it be widely known that he did nothing wrong — rather, he just needs to get more automatic in doing things right. It's not a this-minute type of thing — if El Duque needs a bit longer, another Pelfrey start won't be the end of the world. But it doesn't look like Pelfrey's turnaround is a start away. It looks like he needs another 100 or 200 innings — at least. So let him get them in a situation where the result is a write-up sent to the big club, not a dozen microphones and tape recorders in his face.
He has time. Let him have it.