Mets' Familia Closes Dominican League Stint In Style





NEW YORK—Scouts' eyes fixed upon electric righthander Jeurys Familia during his Jan. 12 appearance for Cibao in the Dominican League playoffs.

In the opposing batter's box stood outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, the touted Cuban free agent.

Their encounter didn't last long. The 22-year-old Familia retired Cespedes with three 95 mph fastballs.

The Mets consider Familia a valuable asset for their future, and they treat him as such. After he logged 124 innings in 2011—and landed on the disabled list during the summer with shoulder trouble—he pitched a mere five innings over five relief appearances in winter ball.

"We didn't want him to do too much this winter," vice president for scouting and player development Paul DePodesta said.

The Mets like their young starters to gain experience pitching in relief at some point, so they allowed Familia to pitch occasionally in the Dominican, in part to let him work as a reliever in high-pressure situations.

"We don't want these players' first-ever time out of the bullpen to be in the major leagues," DePodesta said.

Familia earned a promotion to Double-A after six starts for high Class A St. Lucie last season. He made 17 starts for Binghamton and went 4-4, 3.49 with 96 strikeouts in 88 innings. Double-A manager Wally Backman praised Familia's breaking ball and raved about his fastball.

"He sits right at 94 (mph)," Backman said. "When he wants 97, 98, he's got it. So he's got that little extra when he needs it. It's like another pitch."

Familia still needs to develop a more reliable changeup, and his command can be spotty. He may spend a few weeks in Binghamton in 2012 before moving up to Triple-A Buffalo, DePodesta said.

METAMORPHOSES

Wilmer Flores batted .301/.382/.391 in 133 at-bats for Margarita of the Venezuelan League. He began the season at third base but made his final 15 starts at second.

• Righthander Armando Rodriguez missed all of April and most of May before returning to action with St. Lucie last season, and he made another 10 relief appearances in the Dominican League, striking out 11 and walking five in 11 innings.