Paulino has come back from the DL with authority.
Although it’s a very small sample size, the club likes what it sees in Paulino. Paulino is 7-13 thus far and is hitting righties just as well as lefties (he is 3-4 against lefties and 4-9 against righties).
Paulino has even delivered in the clutch.
In the 14th inning in a game none of us will likely ever forget (obviously in reference to the news of Osama bin Laden being captured and killed breaking during the game), Paulino delivered the game-winning RBI with a double off the Phillies’ Kyle Kendrick. This was a game the Mets had to have. Mind you this was Paulino’s first ever game as a Met, and he introduced himself to Mets’ faithful with a career high five hits.
It was a long and arduous road for Paulino to finally play for the Mets.
First there was a 50-game suspension he had to serve for violating MLB’s drug program. Then there were visa issues prior to camp. A bout with anemia and an oblique strain had him miss the opening month as well.
But now that he is back and swinging a hot bat, Paulino is cutting into Thole’s time behind the plate. So, just how much playing time does Paulino get over Thole going forward?
Is this eventually going to morph into a righty/lefty platoon as we thought all along? Or is one catcher going to emerge, and could that catcher eventually be Paulino?
Obviously the Mets see Thole as the catcher of the future, but right now Terry Collins is riding the hot hand in Paulino. Thole has struggled mightily of late as his bating average has dropped to .253, with his OBP now a meek .308. Thole has only three extra base hits in 83 at-bats with eight RBI’s.
Playing time at catcher could depend a lot on how the Mets play as a team in the coming weeks.
With not much on the line at the end of last year, Thole got extended playing time in favor of grizzled vets like Rod Barajas and Henry Blanco. Thole played well enough that the Mets traded away Barajas.
Paulino was signed in the off-season to a one-year deal worth $1.3 million. The Mets don’t have a lot invested in Paulino, considering he is a .276 career hitter. So, it’s not like they got to play him.
At this point, whoever is playing better will simply get more playing time.
But with the Mets in a hole right now and six games below .500 (8.5 games back of the Phillies), it makes enough sense to ride the hot hand in Paulino.
As for Thole, just chalk it up to growing pains. He is adjusting and learning the game while pitchers around the league are exploiting his weaknesses. Another point to consider is Thole isn’t exactly lighting it up on defense and his arm has teams running at will on him (he has only thrown out four of 26 baserunners)
Eventually Thole should right the ship and make Paulino the back-up catcher the Mets envisioned him being in the first place. For now, enjoy Ronny mania!