New York – New York Mets General Manager Omar Minaya needed a catcher in the off-season and tried everything to obtain the then free agent Benjie Molina. However it was Molina who wanted more than a one or two year deal and decided to stay with the San Francisco Giants
When Molina stood his ground, Minaya went to his other option. The free agent Rod Barajas was still available, an 11-year Major League veteran who played with four previous teams. Barajas with a career .238, average and with a little less than 100 career home runs coming into the season, so far has paid dividends with his million dollar 1-year contract.
So with the San Francisco Giants in New York at Citi Field Friday evening there was Molina behind the plate for the Giants and the other option catcher, Barajas, for the Mets. And it was Barajas once again using the long ball, this time a walk-off ninth inning home run that gave the Mets a 6-4 win over the Giants.
“I took one swing and took advantage of it,” said Barajas about the winning home run, a slider that went down the left field line off Giants pitcher Sergio Romo, the second walk-off of his career and ninth of the season. Barajas combined with rookie Ike Davis in the second inning for his first home run of the evening, the first back-to back home run jobs for the Mets at Citi Field.
But the story of this early Mets season is how Barajas has adapted well to hitting the home run, especially at Citi Field. In the initial year at their new ballpark last year, the Mets hit the fewest home runs in baseball and could not find the fences in their new digs.
“The elements have been in my favor and I just happened to have them in my favor and hit the ball down the line,” said Barajas about the game winning home run and the weather conditions being perfect for him at home But Barajas was also playing with an aching left index finger which made the ending more interesting.
He smiled and said the finger did not go numb. “My whole body went numb when it went over the fence,” he said. The Mexican born descent Barajas has scored 10 runs, with seven home runs and has driven in 10 in his last 11 games. Eight of his last 11 hits have gone for extra bases.
“He’s quite an acquisition and he mentioned how he liked the clutch,” said Mets Manager Jerry Manuel about his catcher who has turned out to be that better acquisition that Minaya grabbed in late February. Barajas has become a leader in the clubhouse that drew comments from Davis.
Davis and Barajas went back-to back with home runs, the first time a Mets tandem has done that since May 2, 2009 at Philadelphia. Starting pitcher Mike Pelfrey got the run support and was closing in on his fifth win of the season. But Francisco Rodriquez, who got the win, allowed Giants’ John Bowker to hit his first career pinch hit home run in the ninth that tied the score.
After that it was time for Barajas to once again say hello to Citi Field, in particular the left field line. Ike Davis was on first with a leadoff walk, also feeling some pain after making another 360 degree catch in the Mets dugout on a foul ball with Giants runners on the corners in the top of the inning.
“I just knew the guy knew how to swing it and had a lot of power,” said Pelfrey about his catcher Barajas. Molina on the Mets telecast was heard to say that the Mets went the “cheap” route when they would not give in to his contract demands back in January.
They certainly know now that Barajas was worth the value over Molina, and making Minaya look good here for making the right choice.
e-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com