Nickeas Rebounding From Slow Start

Nickeas has the glove, but wants more at the plate

BUFFALO, NY - Mike Nickeas got another taste of the big leagues when he broke Spring Training with the Mets. However, the depth chart eventually sent him back to Triple-A Buffalo where he slipped into a prolonged cold spell. But the veteran catcher is feeling better as of late, and is becoming more confident with the bat to go with his established glove.

Bisons catcher Mike Nickeas broke camp with the Mets out of spring training, making its his second stint in New York after getting a September call up last season.

In eight games with the Mets in 2011, the 28-year-old backstop hit .250 and hit the most memorable home run of his seven-year professional career.

"When I was called up last September it was a dream come true," Nickeas said. "I learned a lot and it was really just a wonderful experience. To hit my first big league home run [this season], it was an unbelievable feeling and I hope to do it again one day."

After his short time with the Mets, Nickeas was sent back down to Buffalo to make room on the big club. Ever since that time, things have been rolling downhill for him.

As of June 21, Nickeas was batting an anemic .188, and even to the most casual observer the catcher seemed to be uncomfortable at the plate.

Bisons Manager Tim Teufel had Nickeas last season in Binghamton and trusts in his ability. He thinks it will be just a matter of time before Nickeas is back in a rhythm at the plate.

"This year, going up to the big leagues and not playing much and then coming down here and getting a chance to play; he's trying to get in a rhythm," Teufel said. "He's trying to get in the rhythm of the season, it's early yet for him. He's been sharing time with Raul [Chavez]…but the last week or so we've seen a different Nickeas at the plate."

In his last eight games, Nickeas has seven hits and is starting to regain his comfort in the batters box.

"I'm starting to feel good," Nickeas said. "The first 100 at-bats here have been arduous but I've been working hard trying to grind through it. I'm starting to feel good at the plate. Some of the stuff I've been working on with [Bisons hitting coach Mike] Easler is starting to pay off I feel like."

He has been working tirelessly with Easler.

Nickeas was losing a lot of his front side power because he wasn't keeping his front hip in long enough during his swing. Easler straightened out his form and since then they have moved on to working on his hands. Nickeas is starting to feel like his swing is quicker and his reaction time is much better.

Through his struggles, Nickeas has tried to maintain his confidence level in spite of the disappointing stretch at the dish.

"I think everybody who has played this game long enough has been through stints, so you try not to waver, but I'd be lying to you if I said my confidence is at an all-time high," Nickeas said. "But I think the older I get and the longer I play, those stints become easier because you know from past experiences that you're going to come out of it. Your confidence gets a little shaken, but better now than when I was younger."

Where Nickeas is always at his best is as the general behind the plate. He said that being great every day at catcher is his most important job.

Nickeas is able to avoid dwelling on hitting slumps by concentrating on his work with the pitching staff. Getting his pitchers a win is always at the forefront of his mind. Teufel has been extremely pleased with the play of his catcher tandem.

"We're blessed with two good catchers here," Teufel said "Nickeas does a nice job calling games, blocking balls, and throwing out runners. We can shut down a run game and it's a good feeling to have good receivers back there."

Nickeas is rounding into form at the right time and looks to continue building on the success he is starting to have.

"It's all about confidence when it comes to hitting and when your mechanics are right," Nickeas said. "I feel like I'm getting closer to that and success breeds more confidence."

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