FLUSHING, NY – Tim Redding pitched like a man who wanted to come back to the Mets next season. His five inning, one hit performance in the Mets eventual 4-1 loss to the Phillies was everything New York could ask for after they released Livan Hernandez on Thursday.
But Redding is a realist and knows returning to this club after his one year, $2.25 million contract expires after this season is suspect at best, so the next six or so starts are a tryout, not just for the Mets, but the rest of baseball as well.
“I don’t want to say this season is cashed in, but a lot of guys will get an opportunity to see if they get brought back,” said Redding who is now 1-6 with a 6.10 ERA on the season. “I would love to be back where I can play with the team that’s 100 percent healthy for all 162.
“But that remains to be seen and if these next six weeks are an audition so be it. I am just going out there trying to do what I did tonight and however long it lasts.”
The great performance tonight doesn’t exonerate Redding for his poor pitching up to this point. In fact, other than Bernie Madoff, no one has stolen more money this season than this tomato can.
For most of the year, he has been a batting practice pitcher, putting the ball down the middle of the plate and then turning his head as it screamed out of Citi Field. He pitched flat, with no sign of improving until the Mets moved in to the bullpen after his 5-run, 2.1 inning performance against Pittsburgh back on July 2nd.
But the ‘pen did something to the 31 year-old. Instead of continuing on down the road to oblivion, Redding improved because of he was able to get ready to pitch a lot quicker.
“Sometimes as a starter you try to be too fine too early,” he said. “What the bullpen allowed me to do is get ready quickly and not worry about it. Sometimes I gave up runs where I pitched well and there were times I gave up runs when the ball was right down the middle on a tee.
“But I found out I have four pitches to throw and I have all four. The situation I was in was for one inning and now that I am back as a starter wherever I might be, I have the confidence that I can throw four pitches as a starter.”
It remains to be seen if this fringe pitcher is in the Mets plans for next year. In fact, the Redding decision is down on the list. After all, they have to make a decision on the general manager, manager, catcher, first baseman, setup man and even Gary Sheffield before the Mets figure out what to do about their barely hanging on fifth starter, who was a Fernando Nieve injury reprieve away from being released.
Yet, for one night, Redding pitched up to his contract and if he can do it over his next six or so starts, he may figure his way back in the Mets plans.
If not, maybe another team will take him.
And Redding, being a smart man, know this.