Citi Field neither hitters' nor pitchers' park

April 4, 2009 6:24:53 PM PDT
Citi Field will be neither a pitchers' nor a hitters' park if no one throws strikes. Oliver Perez made his first appearance at the New York Mets' new home and was as inconsistent as he was at Shea Stadium.

The left-hander failed to make it out of the first inning, walking four and giving up a grand slam to Jed Lowrie in a 9-3 loss to the Boston Red Sox on Saturday that completed a two-game exhibition series.

Boston's Daisuke Matsuzaka also walked four, including two in a 35-minute first inning, but won the spring-training finale for both teams by allowing one hit in four innings.

With a crowd of 38,695 milling through the stands on a blustery afternoon, the fresh sod was as littered with wrappers as Shea used to be from 1964 through last year.

"We'll probably see more weather like this," Matsuzaka said through a translator. "The wind affected my concentration more than the cold, and I even noticed the wind in the bullpen warming up. Once the game began, the wind didn't affect me as much. What affected me more was the trash on the field."

The Red Sox, who also got Jason Varitek's fifth spring training homer, headed home after the game for Monday's opener at Fenway Park against AL champion Tampa Bay.

New York planned to work out at Citi Field on Sunday before flying to Cincinnati for the traditional NL opener Monday. The Mets don't return home until the ballpark's official opener against San Diego on April 13.

Because of its deep power alleys and high walls, Citi Field is projected to be a pitcher's park. But no one's sure.

"It's kind of a small sample so far. There's definitely going to be some odd bounces," Mets third baseman David Wright said.

"Hopefully we can use that to our advantage. You know, we need to take advantage of our workout here tomorrow, you know, seeing the way the ball bounces, seeing how it comes off the different angles so that when visiting teams come in here, you know, we're going to know where the ball ends up and hope that it rattles around a little bit when they go to field it."

Shea was a pitcher's park, more pronounced in favor of the defense early in the season.

"We said from a baseball side, we'd rather have it as a pitcher's park first," Mets general manager Omar Minaya said.

"Then let's see how it goes through a whole summer."

New York manager Jerry Manuel hopes Citi Field plays with more predictability than Shea Stadium did.

"It will take half the year, half the year to understand it.

There will be some things we'll take out of each game we play, some things that will show up with each game we play," he said. "The wind at Shea, the flag was blowing one way, it meant it was going the other way. Here, I don't know how it will play."

Still, the Mets were happy to get a two-day glimpse.

"It was good to, you know, just kind of see the way that the grass is cut as far, you know, the speed of balls coming off the bat, playing surface, the angles in the outfield," Wright said.

"All of those things are things that we can use to our advantage come the regular season."

If Perez keeps throwing like this, it won't make any difference.

He walked four or more in 11 of 34 starts last year - and the Mets remarkably won seven of them. This time he gave up an opening single and three straight walks, including Kevin Youkilis with the bases loaded. He caught Jason Bay's one-out, bases-loaded liner and threw to second trying for a double play, but the ball bounced off the glove of second baseman Luis Castillo for a run-scoring error.

After a walk to Mike Lowell reloaded the bases, Lowrie sent a fastball over the 15-foot, 8½-inch wall in left.

Perez lasted eight batters and 37 pitches.

"I understand sometimes you're going to have games like that," said Perez, who received a $36 million, three-year contract in the offseason to remain with the Mets. "That's not easy, to have games like that with the family and your friends (watching). I understand they don't like today's game. I don't like it, too."

Perez was bothered by the cold and the wind.

"I'm not used to being in this kind of weather," he said.

Manuel is keeping a close watch.

"There is some concern, but we still have to, you know, kind of keep it in its right place - at this point in spring training," he said. "And hopefully, you know, his next outing he'll have a little better command and have a little better velocity and, you know, we'll just have to get better. Next outing is for keeps."


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