Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Posts Tagged ‘New York Mets

Vinny Rottino hits 1st HR in Majors, NY Mets win, 9-0

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The old saying is, “You never forget your first” anything.  And in this case, after all the time, energy, and “sweat equity” Vinny Rottino’s put into making the major leagues — his persistence — I’m certain that Rottino will never forget May 26, 2012.

Why?  Because this was the day that Rottino hit his first-ever major league home run as a member of the New York Mets.  Rottino’s homer was part of a four-run first inning that helped stoke Mets starter Johann Santana to a lead he would never relinquish.  Ultimately, the Mets won, 9-0, over the Padres; Rottino went 2 for 3 with a HR, two runs scored, a walk, and a strikeout.

Despite Santana’s nine-inning four-hit shutout, the day belonged to Rottino.  This is because he’s a 32-year-old rookie who’s played parts of six major league seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers, Florida Marlins, and, of course, the Mets.  Trying so hard for so long — playing ten seasons of professional baseball in the minor leagues — is noteworthy, as I’ve said many times. 

Finally, others are noticing Rottino’s persistence and talent, too.  As Ethan Asofsky of MLB.com put it:

Vinny Rottino got a lesson in supply and demand after the Mets’ 9-0 win over the Padres on Saturday.

After hitting his first Major League home run, having spent 10 seasons in the Minor Leagues, the Mets outfielder had to bargain with the fan that caught the ball to get it back. The fan received a signed bat and ball from Rottino in exchange for the most valuable commodity a 32-year-old rookie can have — his first home run ball.

You might be wondering what Rottino had to give the Mets’ fan in return; from Asofsky’s above-mentioned story, here’s what happened next:

“I was running out of bats, so I actually gave him a bat that I haven’t used in a while,” Rottino said. “It turns out it was a Florida Marlins bat. That’s what it said on it. I realized that after the fact.”

Rottino’s home run came on a 2-1 fastball, capping a four-run first inning that allowed Mets starter Johan Santana — who tossed a four-hit shutout — to pitch with the lead for the rest of the game. Rottino said he didn’t feel the contact when the ball met his bat on the home run. He was numb.

“I was just happy to help the team and contribute to the win,” Rottino said. “But I was floating around the bases a little bit. I had a little bit of goose bumps running around the bases. It was a cool feeling.”

Asofsky then points out this is the first time Rottino’s had a chance to play meaningful baseball — in May, no less.  And then, of course, Asofsky points out how long Rottino’s been trying to make it in the big leagues (as I have done, blog after blog), and then ended his article this way:

Rottino said he never stopped believing he’d have the opportunity to round the bases after his first home run in the Major Leagues. Mets manager Terry Collins said Rottino’s work ethic is a result of how much he loves the game.

“I talk about it all the time with my teammates down in Triple-A, you just have to keep grinding and believing,” Rottino said. “You just never know what can happen. I’ll continue to do so.”

And lest you think Ethan Asofsky was the only one to figure out this was a really big deal, Justin Tasch and Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News also wrote an article that discussed Rottino’s HR.  Here’s what they had to say:

Vinny Rottino, the Mets’ 32-year-old utility man, smashed his first major league homer to cap a four-run first inning Saturday, helping the Mets topple to Padres, 9-0.Rottino, who made his debut in the minors in 2003, has played in 32 games in the majors his (sic) spanning six years. His daydreams of trotting around the bases finally became a reality when he connected on a 2-1 pitch from lefty Clayton Richard.

(Quoted verbatim from May 26, 2012, NY Daily News article; sic was added by Barb Caffrey due to the unnecessary word that somehow escaped the Daily News‘ copyeditors.)

Notice the pitch count, which was described in both articles.  Rottino’s batting eye must have been sharp, as he’d taken two balls and a strike from Padres pitcher Clayton Richard.  This meant he was on a “hitter’s count.”  He then got a favorable pitch to hit (a fast ball), and drove it out of the ballpark in deep left-center field according to the box score.

What a great day for Vinny Rottino!

Written by Barb Caffrey

May 26, 2012 at 10:31 pm

Baseball Round-up: Brewers News, Rottino Called Up by Mets

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Folks, if I were a member of the Milwaukee Brewers organization, I’d be panicking right now.  After first losing P Chris Narveson, then 1B Mat Gamel to season-ending injuries, the Brewers have placed CF Carlos Gomez on the 15-day DL.  Now, the Brewers probably will have to place SS Alex Gonzalez on the DL as well, because today he slid into second base attempting to steal, and had to be assisted off the field. 

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UPDATE:  Tom Haudricourt points out in today’s game blog at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel online that this is the fourth consecutive day where a Brewers player has exited the game (Gamel, Braun, Gomez, and now Gonzalez).  MLB.com Brewers beat writer Adam McCalvy wrote that Gonzalez will be going to the DL as of tomorrow, and said that 3B Taylor Green and SS Edwin Maysonet (here’s his prior major league statistics; he’s a lifetime .276 hitter in very limited play) will be called up from AAA Nashville.  Green can play 2B, 1B, and possibly the OF; Maysonet also plays 2B.

Note that this update doesn’t change my initial assessment about who’s going to play the outfield, now that there’s only three healthy outfielders (Corey Hart, Norichika Aoki, and Nyjer Morgan), with Braun playing anyway due to an Achilles injury. 

This also doesn’t change my initial assessment regarding first base, either; right now we have Travis Ishikawa and Brooks Conrad, who aren’t good long-term solutions.  It might be better for Braun and the Brewers if he must continue to  play despite his injury to be shifted to first base.  Braun came up as a third baseman, knows the infield, and is the best athlete on the club, so this might not be so onerous as it might appear.

That way, Corey Hart could be put in CF as he has good speed and is blessed with the best arm (outside of Braun, who is ailing) in the outfield.  Morgan could be put in RF (possibly platooning with Conrad, who’s a better OF than he is at 1B), and Aoki, who has a very suspect arm despite his excellent speed, in left field.

Now, back to my regularly scheduled post.

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The player who really could’ve helped them right now is 32-year-old utilityman Vinny Rottino, who was called up yesterday by the New York Mets.  Rottino, who had a good Spring Training with the Mets and was the last player sent down to the minors, hit .317 at AAA Buffalo with 1 HR, 14 RBI, 13 runs scored, 8 doubles, and 1 triple.  He had a fourteen game hitting streak going at Buffalo when he was called up.

Here’s a link to a very nice Mets blog that discussed the Rottino call-up:

http://metsmerizedonline.com/2012/05/mets-option-schwinden-recall-vinny-rottino.html?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mets-option-schwinden-recall-vinny-rottino

Rottino has played the outfield exclusively for the Bisons this season, but played first base, third base, and catcher along with the OF in Spring Training.  The Mets know Rottino is versatile, is a patient hitter, and has a calming, steady presence on the bench; better yet, Rottino is a fine defender and makes very few mental mistakes.

The best news in this case is that Rottino finally is is an organization that’s told him the flat, exact truth: they told him when he was sent down (reading between the lines in Peter Jackel’s last story about Rottino in the Racine Journal-Times) that he’d be the first position player called up, and he has been.  Being in an organization that’s told Rottino the truth and values what he’s done thus far has to be a huge emotional lift, which Rottino deserves due to his persistence, faith in himself and his abilities, and all of his hard work.

But as this article by Peter Jackel from 2007 shows, Rottino is a lot more than just a guy with a great attitude.  Then-Brewers pitcher Jeff Suppan had this to say about Rottino:

“What is great about Vinny is he is able to play a lot of different positions and he plays them well,” Suppan said. “He had to wait a little while to get some good opportunities in the big leagues, but I think in the years to come, he’s going to be a mainstay.”

And here’s what then-Brewers hitting coach Jim Skaalen had to say:

“He knows he belongs up here,” Skaalen said. “Through the hard work he’s put in over the years coming from where he’s come from – an undrafted player – and the odds that are against someone in that situation, he’s obviously a fighter or he wouldn’t be here. And now he’s fought himself and worked himself to this level and he’s not going to be denied now.

“That’s the way it is with guys who play at this level. They expect to be here, they’re comfortable in this environment and they know they’re as good as anybody else who’s out there.”

Ultimately, the main thing to remember about Rottino is this: he’s a baseball player.  And he’s a very good one.  This is not a publicity stunt by the Mets; it’s not charity.  Rottino has earned his opportunity and I believe he will make the most of it.

More people need to know about Vinny Rottino and his long journey to the major leagues.  If they did, they’d realize the value in refusing to give up no matter what the odds.

Written by Barb Caffrey

May 5, 2012 at 6:56 pm

Baseball Updates: Hart to Play Opening Day; Rottino sent to AAA by Mets

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Folks, I have the proverbial good news and bad news.

Tonight’s good news?  Milwaukee Brewers RF Corey Hart will not start the season on the disabled list, as had been previously thought.  Instead, he will be in right field for the Brewers on Opening Day on April 6.

But the bad news is that ex-Brewers farmhand, all-around good guy, and one of the most versatile players in any league, Vinny Rottino, who hit .276 in Spring Training with 5 RBI in 58 ABs — an IF/OF/C who plays just about every position except second base and pitcher — was cut a few, short hours ago by the New York Mets and was sent to AAA Buffalo (their minor-league affiliate) in what appears to be the Mets’ very last transaction before the start of the 2012 season.

Now, there is a hint of good news even to this, as Michael Baron of MetsBlog.com fame says that he doubts the Mets have “seen the last of him.”  Baron’s comment, in its entirety, is available here, but here are his kind words about Rottino:

I liked what I saw from Rottino this Spring. With all of the early injuries to the outfielders, he was given every opportunity to show what he could do, and he did everything the staff asked him to do when he played. He showed he can make solid contact and is versatile – he can play both corner positions and the outfield as well. I bet we haven’t seen the last of him.

In addition, Peter Jackel of the Racine Journal-Times is reporting that Rottino impressed Mets’ manager Terry Collins.  From Jackel’s article:

Rottino, a 1998 (Racine)** St. Catherine’s High School graduate, certainly has reason to be encouraged. He was informed by Collins last Thursday that he would break camp with the Mets if veteran outfielders Scott Hairston and Andres Torres, who had been battling injuries, were not healthy. But Hairston and Torres made the 25-man roster, leaving Rottino the odd man out.

“They sent everybody else down except me,” Rottino said. “I was the last position player in camp. (Collins) said, ‘You made an impression on everybody. You opened some eyes, Everything I’ve heard about you is exactly the kind of ballplayer you are.’ ”

So it sounds like Rottino impressed at least a few people with his versatility, his strong defensive skills, and his hitting.  Good for him!

Now, my hope is that Rottino will go on a tear at Buffalo and hit so well that the Mets are forced to bring him up (in the same way as the Brewers had to bring up Russell Branyan in 2008 from AAA Nashville whether they liked it or not).

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** These stars indicate an insertion, by me, for those of you who are not from Racine, WI, who read my blog, with all apologies to Journal-Times sportswriter Peter Jackel.  Jackel knows, as I do, that Rottino is from Racine; I’ve said it here at my blog more than once.  But it’s possible that some of you don’t, especially if you’ve started reading my blog recently.

An Update to the Update, AKA further thoughts from yours truly:

I view Vinny Rottino’s story as a strong lesson in the value of persistence.  I do my best to emulate it, as my own career as a writer/editor hasn’t exactly set the world on fire thus far.  (Please don’t ask me to tell you how long I’ve been trying to do this; let’s just say that it’s longer than Rottino’s been trying to get to the majors and stay.)

Ultimately, the only thing any of us can do — myself, Rottino, anyone at all — is prepare ourselves to take the next step in our development.  For Rottino, that’s playing major league ball; for me, it’s selling my novel ELFY, or perhaps another novel to start with, then selling ELFY (as I remain fully committed to the value of my worth as a funny fantasy writer).

I know Rottino has prepared himself, and will continue to be prepared; as soon as he gets that call from the Mets, he’ll be there like a jet-fueled rocket.

And I know that I’ve prepared myself, too, to see ELFY in print and to know, ultimately, that my husband’s faith in me — much less my very good friend Jeff Wilson’s faith in me, as he, too, was a huge believer in the Elfyverse — will be vindicated.

As I’ve said before, so sayeth I again: good luck, Vinny.  And may the wind be at your back, always.

Written by Barb Caffrey

April 3, 2012 at 11:09 pm

Chris Capuano, now a Met, pitches a 2-hit shutout

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Former Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Chris Capuano, now 33 years of age, pitched a 2-hit shutout in New York for his new team, the New York Mets, last night.  Capuano did this knowing full well that Hurricane Irene was on its way and won easily, 6-0, against the Atlanta Braves.

As the story from the New York Times said: 

While the storm commanded headlines, Capuano’s superb performance got attention at Citi Field. He threw a two-hit shutout, striking out a career-high 13 and walking none.

“I was able to get ahead and just finish some guys off,” Capuano said. “It just felt really good.”

The Times story also pointed out that Capuano did not fret about the weather before Friday evening’s game as many of his teammates (quite understandably) did.  Capuano’s serenity paid off, as he took a no-hit bid into the 5th inning before Dan Uggla got the first hit off Capuano, a single.

Here’s a bit more from the story:

Capuano threw at least 65 percent of his pitches for strikes in all but three innings, according to data from the Web site pitch f/x. He effectively used his changeup, which generated swinging strikes more than 25 percent of the time.

Capuano said his trust in catcher Josh Thole was an important element of his outing.

“I took a little different mental approach tonight,” said Capuano, who improved to 10-11. “I really tried not to shake off too much and just stayed in a good rhythm. I let Josh call the game back there, and it worked out.”

This was by far the best game Capuano has pitched since his return to the big leagues last year for the Brewers.

As I said last year when “Cappy” returned to the Brewers after rehabilitation from a second “Tommy John” surgery, I knew it was only a matter of time before he’d regain his complete pitching form.  But now, it looks like he’s done so, and the Mets are the beneficiaries of taking a chance on him.

“Cappy,” when he’s on, pitches lights-out in the same way future Hall of Fame pitcher Greg Maddux used to (Maddux, like “Cappy,” never had blazing speed; he instead had pinpoint control).  He’s also one of the most professional, put-together ballplayers around, as shown by going out the night before he knew a huge hurricane was on the way that was about to postpone the rest of the baseball series and pitch a two-hit, complete game shutout.

Note that ESPN.com called Capuano’s performance last night “one of the best games in (Mets) franchise history.”  And on that article page is a link to last night’s “Baseball Tonight” show on ESPN where the commentators talk about how good it is when a veteran like Capuano can “persevere” through two major arm surgeries, which just goes to show you how important persistence — along with faith and belief in yourself — can be in overcoming nearly any obstacle.

The only odd thing about Capuano’s game last night from my perspective (being a long-time observer of his pitching style) is that “Cappy” struck out thirteen guys.  (Not walking anyone, well, that’s part of “Cappy’s” game.)  Normally, “Cappy” is a pitcher who induces a lot of ground-ball outs and might strike out one or two guys, not thirteen.  Even in “Cappy’s” best season, 2005, where he was 18-12 for the Brewers, he didn’t come close to doing anything like this.

As Chris Capuano’s USA Today fantasy baseball page put it (emphasis added):

Chris Capuano had the start of a lifetime on Friday, striking out a career-high 13 in a two-hit shutout of the Braves in New York.

The outing was one of the best by any pitcher in baseball this season.

Well done, “Cappy!”

Written by Barb Caffrey

August 27, 2011 at 1:13 pm