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July 16, 2005 / Sports / Brooklyn Cyclones / The Play’s the Thing

This week, talk about ‘Todays’

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Brooklyn Papers Cyclones Coverage

When we left off last time, we had a our third annual “Who’s On First” column for the Cyclones position players. Since that time, one of the “Who’s,” Jabe Bergeron, was given his release, and Opening Night’s “Because” — center fielder — Greg Gonzalez was sent down to Rookie Short Season Kingsport. The Cyclones replaced him with center fielder Greg Brown, from the same club.

Such is life in the New York – Penn League where the rosters change like passengers on the F train.

In the Abbott and Costello baseball skit, the pitcher’s name was Tomorrow. Well, the famous vaudevillian comedians used one Tomorrow, and Macbeth mused about three of them, but the Brooklyns have 15 Tomorrows, so today we’ll analyze Tomorrow, and we’ll do it with the help of the Brooks’ new pitching coach, Steve Merriman.

First, a bit on Merriman. He grew up in Michigan, and, as a youngster, was a pitcher and infielder. He attended Central Michigan University, with it’s highly regarded baseball program, where he made the team as a first baseman. At one point during his tenure, he had seven consecutive hits in games. So he sure could hit.

But when the team lost its top two catchers to the baseball draft, Merriman was asked to don the catcher’s gear, known in baseball parlance as “The Tools of Ignorance.” He became the Chippewas regular receiver, and that move turned out to be more educational than ignorant for the amiable Merriman.

He graduated from Central Michigan in 1991 with a degree in education, and took a job coaching the school’s junior varsity team. After stints at a number of colleges and as a scout for the Colorado Rockies, he landed as the bullpen catcher and coach for the Detroit Tigers. There, under manager Buddy Bell from 1996-1998, he worked under the tutelage from former Met pitcher Jon Matlock, the Tigers’ pitching coach at the time.

Merriman joined the Mets organization last year as the pitching coach for manager Mookie Wilson at Kingsport.

So far this year, he’s doing a fine job.

As of July 11, his staff leads the New York-Penn League in ERA with 2.72.

So, exactly Who’s on the mound? Here are the starters, all righties.

Bobby Parnell: At Charleston Southern University, Parnell was 3-5 with an ERA of 8.86 this season in college. With the Cyclones, he’s 1-0 with an ERA of 0.00 and threw five hitless innings against Hudson Valley in his latest start. What happened?

“He has arm strength, and he is a sponge in soaking up pitching knowledge,” said Merriman. “On his breaking ball, his hand was outside his elbow. Now his hand is more inside. And with pro players not swinging aluminum bats, he can pitch his fastball inside.”

Jorge Reyes: Up from the Mets Dominican Summer League affiliate, Reyes (2-1, 4.12) has been working on his change-up, going from throwing only a few in his first start to 18 in his most recent appearance.

Waner Mateo: He’s also been working on his change, and he’s been working on his PFP (pitchers’ fielding practice). The gangly Reyes, a 6-foot-5, 170 pound righty, has a 2-1 record with a 1.15 ERA.

Jeff Landing: “Jeff Landing, a year ago, was a Parnell, a Reyes, a Mateo - he needed to work on his change, on his PFP, on the mental aspect of pitching,” said Merriman. “He had innings last year at Kingsport where he needed to work on damage control. When one thing went wrong, he couldn’t recover. Now, he can. He is where I hope Reyes, and Parnell and Mateo will be in another year.” Landing is 1-2 with a 3.60 ERA.

Orlando Rengel: “He’s in the middle - between the what Landing has learned and what Mateo, Reyes and Parnell are learning,” said Merriman of Rengel (0-0, 2.50) “Two years ago, he was shy about being in the United States, from his home in Venezuelan. Because he’s soft-spoken, people can misconstrue that as a lack of competitiveness. That’s not true. He’s a quiet competitor.”

And in the bullpen:

Travis Hope: “He is a competitor who has a real feel for pitching,” says Merriman

Aristedes Almenar: A starter at Kingsport who has to learn to throw his fastball to both sides of the plate and trust his stuff.

Eric Brown: Needs work on mechanics, but should come up big as the year progresses.

Sal Aguilar: “He’s been consistent,” says Merriman, “but he’s working to get his breaking ball a little sharper.”

Kyle Risinger: Could become a set-up man.

Joe D’Alessandro: From Glassboro, New Jersey, Joe has been used late in games.

Eric Domangue: A lefty that will be used as a set-up man.

Kevin Tomasiewicz: Another lefty who could help close games out down the line.

Jason Weintraub: Playing at Kingsport since 2001, Weintraub has good control and went 3-4, 3.88 last year.

•••

So when you’re out at Keyspan Park, look for 15 Cyclone pitchers and see their new mentor working with his charges, trying to ready them for the Cyclones’ today and the Mets’ tomorrow.

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