Clubhouse Confidential: Trachsel's trips roll on
Trachsel is a Milledge fan.
Trachsel is a Milledge fan.

Posted Aug 5, 2005


Maybe the best part of Steve Trachsel's journey of rehab starts through the Mets' minor league system is that he's had a chance to spend time watching Lastings Milledge, the organization's top prospect. (Free Preview of Premium Content)

Checking in at Shea Stadium this week, preparing for his second rehab start with Double-A Binghamton (fourth overall) on Saturday, Trachsel said he now considers himself among Milledge's supporters.

The rumored trades for Manny Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano turned out to be little more than newsprint fodder, but Trachsel and Milledge had no way of knowing that on July 30, the date Trachsel made his first Double-A rehab start at home against Akron.

"I saw him that first day and said, 'Hey, nice to meet you,'" Trachsel said. "I don’t know if you're going to be here [very long], but I hope you show me something.'"

And as he's done most of this season – Milledge enters Friday's action hitting .311 in 21 Double-A games – the 20-year-old speedster answered the call.

As Trachsel recalls, laughing, "He made a diving catch in the first inning in center field, led off the next inning, stole second and stole third. I was like, 'I guess he's a player.'"

In his admittedly amateur scouting wisdom, Trachsel's verdict? Soriano could have been nice, Ramirez a power presence, but the Mets aren't worse off keeping the kid.

"Hopefully I'll still be here when he gets up here [to Shea] and we can play together," Trachsel said.

That said, Trachsel is probably lucky to even be in position where he can make at least a few starts for the Mets this season. The 34-year-old righthander told Inside Pitch he was originally told that the damaged disc in his lower back would force him to not only miss the entire 2005 season, but that lasting nerve damage could haunt him for the rest of his life.

"'You need surgery, and soon,'" Trachsel recalls one doctor saying in March. "'If this goes untreated, you will lose the use of your foot.' I was shocked. Once he said that, I had no choice."

Given time to reflect on the severity of the injury, Trachsel now admits there were several tell-tale signs. He'd be walking around in flip-flop sandals and suddenly lose one, or trip over invisible objects on his living room carpet. On one occasion, he couldn't get a foot to lift at all, a result of progressing nerve damage.

"It was a humbling experience," Trachsel said. "I went from thinking I was taking 10 days off to having a doctor tell me I was missing the entire season."

***

Ugly baseball: If someone were to package a three-game series of baseball into a time capsule, saving a prime example of this great game for future generations … this week's Mets-Brewers series would be automatically eliminated.

Maybe it was the unrelenting heat and muggy conditions at Shea Stadium, but something seemed to just bring out the absolute worst in the two teams this week, playing what was really sloppy, uninteresting baseball.

Never mind the fact that the Mets lost two of three in the series, and that their bullpen's effectiveness – especially that of 40-year-old Roberto Hernandez – appears to be grinding to a dead halt.

The next time someone claims to favor a slugfest over a tight, crisp 1-0 or 2-1 game, try to remember these numbers from that brutal three-game series …

48 runs scored (26 Brewers, 22 Mets)
92 hits (50 Brewers, 42 Mets)
26 relief pitchers used (14 Brewers, 12 Mets)

Those numbers include Tuesday's agonizing 11-inning walk-off walk win, in which Victor Zambrano started, allowed four home runs and recorded all of four outs; and of course Thursday's so-called 12:10 p.m. camp day, which had the quick turnaround in order to accommodate thousands of day camp kids from around the tri-state area.

A great idea in theory, but nobody could have imagined the excruciating pace of the 21-run, 36-hit game, which was set when Brady Clark battled an increasingly frustrated Kris Benson for a eight-pitch at-bat as the first hitter of the game.

By the time the game's second hour had elapsed, the teams hadn't even finished the fourth inning, en route to matching the longest nine-inning game in Mets history at four hours, nine minutes.

My first reaction? Those poor day campers – if that was their introduction to the sport, they'll probably never watch baseball again.

***

If you had to pick one moment to remember from the three-game series, it'd have to be Doug Mientkiewicz's slide to break up a double play in the ninth inning of Wednesday's game.

With the Mets trying to rally from a two-run deficit against Milwaukee closer Derrick Turnbow – who's been much more effective than he showed at Shea – Mientkiewicz was on first base when Marlon Anderson chopped a ball to the right side of the infield.

Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks fielded the grounder and ran into the base-line to tag the slow-footed Mientkiewicz, who stopped, dropped and rolled into Weeks' legs – it might have resembled a typical takeout slide, except it happened no more than 30 feet from the first-base bag.

"It wasn't a dirty play, it was the only way to break up a double play," Mientkiewicz told reporters. "I definitely 100 percent was not trying to hurt Rickie."

Whatever it looked like, and it was strange, it worked. Mientkiewicz banged up his back and had to sit Thursday, but he did succeed in breaking up that double play, a point that was made moot when Miguel Cairo and Carlos Beltran left the tying runs on base.

***

Quotable: The Mets' Gerald Williams, on his goals for the rest of the season: "Oh my goodness, to win, obviously. Where we sit at this point is not somewhere we're satisfied with, by no means, because of the talent level we have in this room. What we're trying to do is make sure we play a consistent brand of baseball. We have a long way to go and a short time to get there, and I say "get there" – a cohesive nature of winning baseball and major chemistry in winning baseball. You have to have a commitment to excellence and that's what the Mets are striving for."

***

Quotable, Part II: Mike Piazza, on losing playing time to Ramon Castro: "I'm at a good point in my personal situation where I'm not really worried about it. Whatever feels best [for the team], that's good enough for me."

***

Boos for Beltran: As far as Mets fans booing Carlos Beltran goes, this is getting a little ridiculous, to the point where it seems almost for sport.

I'm not sure when this all started, and sure, Beltran has been underwhelming in his first season with the Mets (he's hitting .264 with 13 homers and 57 RBI entering Friday).

But surely fans couldn't have expected Beltran – playing in a stadium that dimensionally resembles his old haunts in Kansas City – to fire right out of the gate and stay in red-hot Houston postseason mode, could they?

Beltran's October heroics for the Astros earned him extra millions upon millions, but they weren't an indicative barometer of what he'd do for a new team – it was just a matter of getting hot at the right time, both for the Astros and for Beltran's future income ledger.

But fans do buy the tickets, and it's their right to boo. Whatever you think of Beltran, he's handled the struggles with class and a blue-collar attitude; our favorite comment from Beltran came on Tuesday, when he reminded fans that he's "here for seven more years."

"I can't control the fans," Beltran said. "All I can control is the way I play the game."

During batting practice, most players will shag fly balls and kid around while it's not their turn to hit on-field.

Wednesday, Beltran – as usual – was spotted cracking balls off a tee in Shea's dingy, dark, sweltering hot basement, taking even more extra hitting before heading down to the live-action batting cage with coach, Rick Down, and then finally hitting on the field.

"I do my best," Beltran said. "If it doesn't happen [at the plate], there's nothing I can do about it. I just try to get them tomorrow."

***

Spotted at Shea: Wearing a skin-tight Danny Graves jersey on Wednesday night, Mr. Jessica Simpson, one Nick Lachey.

The Cincinnati native is friendly with the ex-Reds closer and, in a TV appearance Thursday, campaigned for Graves to get more playing time.

Graves – who appears more and more likely to be released before season's end, having failed to earn Willie Randolph's trust – did appear in Thursday's 12-9 loss to Milwaukee, throwing a scoreless seventh inning in his first piece of work since the Colorado series a week ago.

Randolph was snippy regarding Graves' status with the team Wednesday, saying: "The way it's played out is the way it's played out, basically. … We've got time before we have to concern ourselves with what he's doing."

Inside Pitch managing editor Bryan Hoch appears every Friday with 'Clubhouse Confidential', an inside look at the Mets organization. Bryan can be contacted at metsinsidepitch@aol.com.


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