Baseball, Binghamton Mets shortstop Ryan Coultas would think, indulges in its own brand of schadenfreude, or taking advantage of one’s misfortune.
With the B-Mets trailing the Portland Seadogs, 2-1, in the top of the fifth inning Friday at NYSEG Stadium, Bubba Bell’s grounder skipped under his glove into centerfield to start the inning.
The next batter, Jeff Natale, grounded to Coultas again, an immediate opportunity for redemption. He picked up the ball, stepped on second and made the throw to first, deliberately and calmly. Problem was, the ball sailed three feet to the right of first baseman Mike Carp.
“First (error) I just didn’t get my glove down, it went under my glove,” the 6-foot-3 infielder said. “Taller guys, sometimes, they get a little lazy and then don’t get down (on the ball).”
“And the next one, once you get down, the baseball finds a way of getting right after you again,” he added. “I took it myself when I maybe should’ve flipped it to (second baseman J.E. Cruz). I got my steps a little off, wasn’t real balanced when I threw it.”
He ended the game, the first of a doubleheader, in the dugout. Standing in the on-deck circle as the potential tying run in the bottom of the seventh inning with Portland leading by 4-1, he was replaced Jamar Hill (whom Coultas calls “his good friend”).
“I was looking for somebody to hit the ball out,” B-Mets manager Mako Oliveras said. “You know in that situation I’m trailing by three runs, I think Hill had a chance to hit a ball out.”
(Hill never got a chance; the game ended on J.E. Cruz’s fly out to right.)
Coultas, who entered the day batting .154, was 0-for-2 in the first game, but still in the lineup for the second game.
“Sometimes the best way to give somebody confidence is to keep them out there,” Oliveras said.
He was 0-for-2 in the second game (a 1-0 victory) as well, but committed zero errors.
“In the past I’m real streaky,” he said. “When things are going well they’re going real well. When things are going bad, for some reason it just seems to be exploited a little bit more.”
Coultas, 25, was drafted by the Mets in the sixth round of the 2004 draft. He was called up to Binghamton from St. Lucie on July 5 due to starting shortstop Jose Coronado’s broken left pinky.
Though he was not tearing up the Florida State League—batting .241 with three homeruns—things have clearly gone even worse in his 11 games in Binghamton. Mark Kiger, 27, has tried to keep Coultas encouraged.
“With the younger guys, you make mistakes and it’s the end of the world,” Kiger said. “Just simplify. I told him just catch the ball—that’s all you got to do is just catch it. In the second game, he was fine. The younger the player, the more you try to do too much, and it’s a snowball effect.”
“He’s baseball-brilliant,” Coultas said of Kiger. “He kind of gives me more mental things to stay up instead of just spiraling down.”
Mechanically, he has been jumping at pitches at the plate.
“With him, we just make sure that he’s staying back a little bit more,” said B-Mets hitting coach Nelson Silverio. He does soft toss with Coultas to try to get him to wait on the ball and stay up the middle.
Coultas, drafted as a shortstop, has become a utility man. He has played everywhere but catcher this year, and even that, he says, is a technicality: he caught in the bullpen in St. Lucie. He also pitched two hitless innings in the FSL, the 12th and 13th in a doubleheader against Tampa on May 11. (He was not allowed to throw his split-finger, just his fastball and changeup.)
“That’s my role, I understand, more of a utility guy” he said. “It almost brings you back to little league in a way, where you get to rotate positions.”
His time in Binghamton will likely end when Jose Coronado returns, something that Coultas said he does not focus on because it out of his control.
“My goal, to make a long story short, is just to finish strong,” he said. “I’ve obviously kind of dug myself in a little bit of a hole here, but if I’m here for another month, August, if I get to play a lot, that could be 100 AB’s.”
”If I have a good month… this is the main thing, I just want to finish strong and be able to say that I didn’t come here and have this level be a little overpowering, because I don’t think that’s really it.”