Don’t look now, but Vic Black appears to be righting the ship.
Originally penciled in to the back end of the New York Mets bullpen, the hard-throwing right hander had a miserable spring. He couldn’t find the strikezone, and he lost a few miles-per-hour on his fastball. As a result, he started the year in Triple-A. His woes followed him to Las Vegas at first, as he walked 10 batters in his first eight games. His velocity steadily increased, however.
Now, over Black’s last four games, his command has returned. In that time, he’s walked none and struck out six in four innings, while seeing his fastball touch 99 MPH. Due to his effectiveness, and the lack of effectiveness of Jeff Walters, Vick has taken over as the 51s’ closer. Overall, despite his early struggles, Black has allowed only one earned run while punching out 15 in 13.1 innings.
If Black maintains his command and velocity over his next two to three outings, the Mets should bring him up. The Mets bullpen is already wearing down from overuse, and experiencing nagging injuries. He could replace Jose Valverde, who’s essentially become a mop-up man, or Daisuke Matsuzaka.
Apart from his last outing, Dice-K has been good as a reliever, but his ridiculously long warm-up routine can be problematic if a Mets starting pitcher melts down quickly. Yes, he starts to warm up way before he’s needed, but there is still a certain amount of timing involved.
Besides, Black was a first-round pick for the Pittsburgh Pirates, and was the most highly-regarded bullpen arm in their system. He was the key piece in the trade that sent Marlon Byrd to the Buccos. In addition, he showed he was capable of pitching in the majors last year when he had a 1.15 WHIP, 3.46 ERA and an 8.3 K/9 ratio in 15 appearances.
If he can get a consistent grip on his unorthodox mechanics (which include a mid-motion glove tap), he could turn out to be the late inning relief pitcher that the Mets sorely need in the absence of Bobby Parnell.