Don't Panic About El Duque

I know El Duque barely threw 80 miles per hour in his simulated game today, but it doesn’t mean that was the hardest he could throw.

Anyone who has watched the Mets recently know that they make sure their players take their time in recovery. Take Pedro Martinez as an example from last season. Some people predicted that he would come back and be with the team by the All-Star break, but instead he came back in September and started his season with a very, very slow fastball in the mid-to-low eighties at times. As the month went on, his fastball speed increased.

Take Martinez this season. The team brought him back into the swing of things a bit slowly. Then on top of all that, he ended up waiting a long time before even making a Spring Training start because of simple things, such as the fact that the team was on the road that day, so he’d skip the bus ride.

Take Luis Castillo for example. He waited longer than people expected, but he still came back and expects to be ready for opening day. There were even reports on the internet praising Castillo because the wait was worth it.

The Mets are an older team, forcing them to sometimes make sure everything is perfect before they just throw an old, injury-prone player out on the field and make them play.

So that brings me back to El Duque. The Mets are taking an extended amount of time with him before he returns to the team. Why? Well, just take a look at anything I have said above of this. He is an older, injury-prone player. There is your answer.

People are now complaining that he only threw a high speed of 81 miles per hour. Give me a break. Sure, that is slow compared to the rest of the Major Leagues, and I’m not even sure if he will throw any faster ever again. All I’m saying is that you need to give him time, even with Opening Day is approaching. He kind of IS a veteran, right? Actually, who cares about opening day with El Duque because he would be a fifth starter and wouldn’t pitch until later in the month!

At MLB.com, Marty Noble wrote an interesting paragraph in his story on El Duque’s results for today.

Marty wrote:

“Hernandez’s performances can be as puzzling for scouts as they are for hitters. When El Duque was between employers in late February of 2004, he conducted an audition in Coral Gables, Fla., throwing for the Yankees some nine months after he had undergone elbow surgery. The Yankees weren’t sufficiently impressed at first, but re-signed him. Four years later, he has won 48 games and one World Series ring.

He’s been fooling a lot of people.”

So who knows what the reasons or the real story behind this 81-miles per hour outing. Maybe he was testing new things. Maybe he wasn’t supposed to throw hard according to his pitching routine and schedule. Maybe Rick Peterson, Willie Randolph, or others told him not to over-do it and just worry about the movement of his pitches.

I’m not saying I have faith in El Duque or that I think he will be a good pitcher this season, because I have no idea. You can never know with him. But the point is, don’t get all over him when you never knew the reason behind it. You weren’t talking with him and Rick Peterson before the simulated game. Besides, it was a simulated game, not a real game.

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