[The following is an excerpt from the feature article in the upcoming print edition of Inside Pitch Magazine]
He calls them "the toughest 10 games I've ever been through."
Actually, the number was 13, and the frustration was audible in the acute manner in which Brooklyn Cyclones
shortstop Reese Havens
spoke after not being able to play, again and again.
Havens, the Mets' second overall draft pick in 2008 at No. 22 out of the University of South Carolina
, discovered on June 16 he had a strained right throwing elbow. He felt something wrong while throwing the ball around in his first day of workouts at Brooklyn's KeySpan Park, just one day before the team's season opener.
While most of his teammates made their professional debuts, Havens was forced to wait, unable to take even ground balls until the end of June.
"It's was tough to deal with," he says. "I came here and I was looking forward to playing on Opening Night and I had an injury I didn't know about coming out here."
Havens started all 63 games for South Carolina, but had over time hurt his elbow—it was a gradual thing with no definitive moment as to when it happened.
Finally, on June 13, Havens was cleared to DH. And, to perhaps add insult to injury, the 6-foot-1 left-handed hitter earned the golden sombrero in each of his first four at-bats.
The worst was his second at-bat, against Hudson Valley's Nick Barnese. Havens went up 3-0 in the count before being beat by four straight fastballs (he fouled one pitch off). Rust can do that.
"Not the best way to start out," he joked. "Good thing is you can only go up from tonight."
Havens added a walk in his final at-bat to close out an ugly debut statistically. But after the game, a 6-5 Cyclones win over the Hudson Valley Renegades
at KeySpan, he was actually smiling, despite all the swings and misses.
"I got beat by fastballs all night. That shouldn't happen and it rarely does," he continues. "It's still early, the good thing is that my elbow felt good, it didn't give me any problems at all."
That latter fact was reason enough to be content, but the walk was bigger than the box score would indicate. Hudson Valley rallied for two runs in the top of the ninth inning to tie the game at five.
With runners on first and second and one out in the bottom of the inning, Havens drew Brooklyn's third walk of the inning on five pitches, loading the bases for third-place hitter Ike Davis
—Havens' first-round draft mate in 2008. Davis knocked in the winning run.
"That [walk] was very, very important," says Cyclones manager Edgar Alfonzo of Haven's base on balls. "He calmed himself down a little bit and then he worked the count."
With his first professional at-bats finally behind him, Havens' focus after the game was getting back on defense—but what position he'll ultimately play is the biggest question surrounding his future.
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