NEW YORK -- Obscured by the tarnish that formed on the second game of the Mets' doubleheader on Saturday was a seemingly significant phase of the continuing makeover of Mike Pelfrey.
The Mets lost to the Reds in an unbecoming way, 7-1, and Pelfrey lost as well. But he emerged from his start with a sense of achievement the box score didn't convey.
Winning would have the day a more pleasing package, Pelfrey readily acknowledged.
"But I'm pretty happy with the other parts," he said.
What appeared to be a pretty good six-inning work day was every bit as much two hours of re-creation by a 24-year-old pitcher tired of the abuse of National League hitters. The pitcher warming up in the Mets' bullpen at 7 p.m. ET and the one removed after allowing two runs and eight hits were not the same. Even before Pelfrey threw the first of 106 pitches, he shed the mouthpiece that had been as much a part of him as his glove and cap.
He put it aside in the bullpen "just to change things." And shortly after he threw his first pitches to Ryan Freel, it became apparent Pelfrey had abandoned his two-seam fastball.
"Just scrapped my best pitch,"
is how he put it.
The change -- in pitching, not in dental appliance -- was part of Pelfrey's continuing effort to be more aggressive. He had lost command of the two-seam pitch that dives into the hitting zone after two starts, both victories, and, as he said, "all that that meant was ball 1, ball 2 to every batter. I was always behind."
Pelfrey (2-3) stumbled through three more starts -- three team losses, two staining his record -- and said enough is enough. The four-seam fastball displaced the two-seamer, and fly balls became the more common result for a confirmed ground-ball pitcher.
The "bowling ball," as teammates called his two-seamer, was in the gutter, so to speak.
"Not for good, but until I get the command back," Pelfrey said.
"I was throwing maybe 85 [percent] sinking fastballs and hardly ever using the four-seamer. Plus the slider and changeup. I probably threw five or six [Saturday]."
In Spring Training, there was speculation among scouts that Pelfrey would abandon his slider and throw the two-seamer and changeup exclusively. Never happened.
The one Spring Training matter that carried into the season was the mouthpiece. Pelfrey had begun using it in college as a means of camouflaging his pitchers. He had been tipping his pitches by sticking out his tongue. The mouthpiece stopped that until this spring, when teammates told him he was tipping his pitches by chewing the mouthpiece on fastballs, but not breaking balls.
"I'm putting all that behind me now," Pelfrey said Sunday morning. "I just want to attack the strike zone and get outs any way I can."r