KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Mets first baseman Ike Davis is participating in Cardinals reliever Jason Motte's fledgling "Strike Out Cancer" initiative. Fans can purchase Davis T-shirts online to help the cause.
The website 108stitches.com went live on March 17, with 108 Stitches showcasing the "Strike Out Cancer" tees in each team's colors. Each is promoted by a different player who agreed to join Motte in a partnership that will benefit multiple charities. Each participating player has chosen a charity that will benefit from the T-shirts sales, and for each shirt sold, $5 will go to the Jason Motte Foundation and $5 to a charity of that player's choice. A full list of recipient charities will be listed on the 108 Stitches website soon, along with a photo of each player rep in his team-colored shirt.
"At the end of the day, it's about reaching people," Cardinals right-hander Jason Motte said. "Baseball is great and everything, but there are other really important things going on out there that affect a lot of people. Wearing these T-shirts shows people that they're not alone. They're not sitting there doing chemo by themselves where no one cares. People do care, whether it's friends, family or baseball players. There are people who this has touched and this has affected. This is something we're trying to do to get the word out there and try to raise money to help."
Valverde earns key role in Mets' bullpen
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- When the Mets signed Jose Valverde and Kyle Farnsworth to Minor League contracts over the winter, the hope was that at least one of them would be able to provide veteran insurance for closer Bobby Parnell, who was coming off injury.
Valverde earned the job. The Mets officially placed him on their 40-man roster Wednesday, ensuring his spot in the Opening Day bullpen.
It will be a prominent role, to boot. Manager Terry Collins said that he may hold Parnell back from appearing on three consecutive days early in the season; on those nights, Valverde will pitch the ninth.
"You'd like your closer to go three or four in a row before you might think about giving him a day off," Collins said. "[But] we've got to make sure how Bobby feels. After two days in a row, I'll certainly be on top of that.
"Certainly [Valverde] is … going to hopefully be that bridge to Bob. And those nights that Bobby is going to need a night off, it's going to have to be Jose that's going to pick up the slack."
Valverde, 36, posted a 3.00 ERA in nine spring innings, striking out seven batters and walking one. When not on the mound, he earned acclaim for his tutelage of younger Latin pitchers including Jeurys Familia, Gonzalez Germen and Jenrry Mejia.
With Vic Black's demotion to Minor League camp, Germen should have a role alongside Valverde in the Opening Day bullpen. So will Familia, who could be in the late-innings mix after a strong spring showing.
Barring a last-minute surprise, those three will join Parnell, Carlos Torres, Scott Rice and John Lannan in the 'pen.
Mets' Black disappointed, but understands demotion
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Over the past four weeks, Mets reliever Vic Black went from roster lock to roster casualty.
The Mets on Wednesday optioned Black to Minor League camp after the right-hander struggled with his command all spring. Though Black reported to camp in February riding the wave of his strong 2013 stretch run, 10 walks in 9 1/3 Grapefruit League innings rapidly diminished his status. Black finished the spring with a 5.79 ERA in 10 appearances.
"It just was a bad spring," Black said. "They're trying to put a team together that's going to give them the best possibility to win, and right now, they don't have that with me, just because of the results I was giving, and the command issues and the walks and stuff like that. I'm going to go to [Triple-A] Las Vegas and get everything clicking again, which is what I've done each year after spring.
"It's new being sent down when I had the expectations to be on the team, but that's part of it. Now I just have to go and compete again."
In Black's eyes, his shortcomings were more mental than anything, considering the 3.46 ERA he posted after a mid-August trade from Pittsburgh to New York last season. Black said he struggled in each of his past two springs before righting himself once the regular seasons began.
"I didn't see it coming, but I also couldn't expect anything different, really," Black said of his demotion. "What I did was struggle all spring, and that's not what they're trying to put together on the team right now. Especially starting off, you're trying to get hot out of the gate, and I didn't give them the best opportunity for what they were hoping. I know they were disappointed, as am I, which is part of it. But I'll be back."
• The Mets on Wednesday officially re-signed Farnsworth to a Minor League deal. The Mets had released Farnsworth earlier in the week to avoid paying him a $100,000 retention bonus.
• The Mets have expanded Citi Field's partnership with Pat LaFrieda Meat Purveyors for the 2014 season. In addition to LaFrieda's existing concession stands at Citi Field, the company will add a stand featuring meatball sliders in a homemade tomato sauce with whipped ricotta cheese. The Mets will also use LaFrieda's original burger blend at all Citi Field restaurants, clubs and concession stands that serve burgers.
• The Mets released another portion of their 2014 promotional schedule, which includes Free Shirt Fridays throughout the season at Citi Field, Family Sundays and three fireworks nights (July 4, Aug. 2 and Sept. 13. The team had previously announced a series of three bobblehead nights and four Saturday postgame concerts.