It seems like ages ago that they wore a Mets uniform, yet in some cases it was just two or three seasons past when they played a key role on the team. We’re not talking about Scott Kazmir – we all keep tabs on him. We’re talking about former top prospects like Mike Pelfrey, John Maine and Aaron Heilman, who were all once thought to be the future of the franchise, much like Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Jeurys Familia are today. So what happened to them after they left the Mets and where are they now?
The Palm Licker
Mike Pelfrey, the Mets’ top pick in the 2005 draft, was a rotation mainstay from 2007 until 2012 when he injured his elbow and was shut down for Tommy John surgery. For four straight seasons from 2008 to 2011, Pelrey was a workhorse, starting at least 30 games each year. In 2010, his best season, Pelf was 15-9 with a 3.66 ERA. The 6’ 7” right hander regressed the following year but came on like gangbusters in 2012, pitching to a 2.29 ERA in his first three starts. It was his walk year, but with Scott Boras as his agent, rumor had it the Mets were planning to trade him in June or July. Unfortunately, big Pelf went down with an elbow injury that ended his season and ultimately his Mets career.
RA Dickey, Jon Niese, Dillon Gee and Johan Santana were joined by Chris Young and a rehabbing Pelf was the odd man out going into 2012. The Minnesota Twins picked him as a free agent after the season on a modest one year deal. Following a disappointing first year back from TJ surgery (5-13, 5.19 ERA), the Twins opted to resign Pelf with hopes that he’d rebound. They signed him to a two-year, $11 million deal through 2015. Pelf struggled last year, but has looked great so far this season, going 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA through four starts. Initially losing out on a rotation spot in spring training seemed to inspire him. His childish smile and nervous palm licking that inspired a parody song on Boomer & Carton are still missed.
The Maine Man
From 2006 to 2009 another tall right hander was a rotation fixture for the Mets – John Maine. Maine helped lead the Mets to the playoffs in 2006, coming on strong in the second half while Pedro Martinez and El Duque Hernandez languished on the disabled list. Maine had his best professional season in 2007, going 15-10 with a 3.91 ERA. He pitched a memorable 14-strikeout gem down the stretch that helped keep the Mets’ postseason hopes alive in late September. In 2010, pitching in his age 29 season, Maine never seemed like himself. The Mets shut him down with a tired arm that turned out to be an injured shoulder that required surgery followed by a lost three seasons of rehab, spring training tryouts with three different franchises and minor league starts.
Maine had one last shot to make a comeback in 2013 with the Marlins, but in four relief appearances he got knocked around to the tune of a 12.27 ERA. At age 32, Maine hung up his spikes. Maine is now an assistant coach for his alma mater University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
Aaron *&^%$#@! Heilman
Many Mets fans swear that’s really his middle name. The big right hander with the ¾ arm slot and the sinker that was either devastating or didn’t sink, was never a fan favorite. He was the Mets’ top pick in the 2001 draft and rated their top prospect in 2002 by Baseball America. Heilman began as a starter and threw one memorable shutout, but due to his odd delivery and a need for bullpen arms, he was converted to a reliever. Heilman pitched for the Mets from 2003 to 2008. From 2005 on, Heiman was a bullpen fixture, good for 70-plus appearances each season. In 2006, Heilman was a very effective 7th inning pitcher, setting up Duaner Sanchez and Billy Wager to form one of the more formidable bullpen backends in the game. When Sanchez went down with an injury, Heilman stepped into the primary setup role where he famously gave up the Yadier Molina homerun that kept the Mets out of the World Series. While he’s now a perennial All-Star, at the time Molina was a .216 hitter six regular season home runs. Nevertheless, the young catcher pounced on a flat changeup and drove it over the wall into the Mets bullpen in the ninth inning of game seven of the NL Championship Series.
“I just left it up,” Heilman said. “I was just trying to throw it down and away. Instead it stayed right over the middle of the plate.”
No Mets fan accepted that excuse and despite a solid 2007 campaign, most Mets fans never forgave him. In 2007, Heilman solidified his role as the 8th inning guy, but when called upon to replace an injured Billy Wagner with the season on the line, Heilman blew save after save, playing a key role in the team’s embarrassing late season collapse. 2008 was even worse for Heilman, who surrendered 10 home runs in relief. Heilman left the Mets via a multi-team trade that netted the Mets JJ Putz and landed Heilman in Seattle and then he was traded to the Cubs before the 2009 season started. Be it via trade or signing, Heilman went on to wear seven uniforms after leaving the Mets. Though the four-pitch pitcher longed to take a rotation spot, he continued relieving with modest success with the Cubs for a year, then the Diamondbacks for two seasons – one good, one bad. In 2012 he failed to make the Texas Rangers out of spring training and has been out of baseball since. `