Nickeas a Veteran Presence for B-Mets

Nickeas is a veteran catcher his staff can rely on

BINGHAMTON, NY - Catcher Mike Nickeas is no stranger to the New York Mets organization. The veteran backstop has spent the last four seasons working with pitchers up and down the system. This season, Nickeas is having one of his best offensive seasons while working with a talented to pitching staff. Nickeas spoke with Inside Pitch about his season with the bat and his work with the B-Mets staff.

Catcher Mike Nickeas has caught at all levels of the minor league system, catching scores of pitchers along the way. The 27-year old was originally drafted by the Texas Rangers in the 2004 First-Year Player Draft. The Mets acquired him during the 2006 season in a trade that sent outfielder Victor Diaz to Arlington.

The catcher situation for Binghamton has been a mess this season due to injuries. Even Nickeas spent a week on the disabled list with a hamstring strain. Aside from that blip, he's stayed relatively healthy and as a result has seen plenty of action behind the plate.

Offensively, Nickeas is off to one of the best starts of his career. In 24 games, he's hitting .310 with 10 RBI, and has drawn 14 walks. He credits his success at the plate to hard work and finally feeling comfortable.

"(B-Mets hitting coach) Luis Natera and I have been working really hard on my swing," he said. "Getting me to where I need to be and getting my lower half working better. Also I think one of the factors is the off-season elbow surgery I had."

"It was something that had been bothering me for a couple of years. It was really limiting my range as far as going through my swing, so I think getting that fixed, and all those factors are kind of helping me be where I'm at right now," he added.

From behind the plate, Nickeas offers his opinion on many of the B-Mets pitches. He feels that despite Brad Holt's struggles this season, Holt has brought quality stuff to the table at times. He just needs to hit his spots more regularly.

"I've seen shimmers of last year, some great stuff from Holt." Nickeas said. "He just needs to be more consistent with it. I think when he can command his fastball, which he needs to be able to do, he's fantastic. His changeup has come a long way, and when he starts mixing it up early in the game, he has a lot of success."

Eddie Kunz, starting for the first time in his career, has fared much better in May compared to April. Nickeas feels Kunz has progressed immensely.

"From where he started the year to now is a mile's difference," he said. "He's done a fantastic job. He's worked so hard; anyone in here can tell you that he's working on his game. He's been great; his last outing was as good as anyone can throw the ball. I've been super pleased with Eddie and I think everyone has."

In his first start since returning from a concussion, Eric Niesen didn't allow a hit or an earned run in 3.1 innings, but walked three and struck out just one. If he can hit his spots better, Nickeas thinks Niesen's future is very bright.

"Eric's a good one; he's going to be great. When he figures out how to be consistent with his command, he's going to be a great pitcher," Nickeas said.

Following an impressive B-Mets debut, Chris Schwinden was roughed up on Thursday morning, surrendering five runs on 10 hits in four innings. That outing notwithstanding, Schwinden's style of pitching will help him succeed in the Eastern League, according to Nickeas.

"I like Schwinden, I really do," he said. "I think he's going to do great here. He's got great fastball command…he's got great command with all four of his pitches. He works very quickly, which the defense loves. He obviously got roughed up a little bit (Thursday), but look for him to bounce back. I think he'll be O.K. and do a great job."

Some of the bullpen arms have particularly stood recently from Nickeas' point of view.

"Ramirez has done a great job as of late; same with Stinson. Alvarez just came up and has thrown the ball really well in his couple of outings," he said.

One of the biggest tasks a catcher faces is keeping in sync with his pitchers, something Nickeas has worked hard at throughout his career.

"Catching is very similar to hitting or pitching," Nickeas said. "You're doing one thing well at one time and there's another thing maybe lacking that you continue to work on. The thing that is a day in, day out challenge is working with the pitching staff, making sure we're on the same page and getting them to where they need to be."

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