The New York Mets don't often get to be part of major celebrations these days, but one of their players--and his legion of family and friends--should be making a toast this Friday night.
The left-hander, who has been in six organizations and played for three Atlantic League teams, was notified Friday that he had made the 25-man Opening Day roster. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone at his age make it for the first time out of spring (training),” reported the Wall Street Journal’s Jared Diamond. “Real excitement here,” his tweet added. (Note: Another Independent product, catcher Chris Coste, debuted with Philadelphia at the age of 33 a few years ago.) Michael Baron of MetsBlog.com also reported Rice’s addition to the 40-man roster, and ESPNNewYork reported another former Independent pitcher, Greg Burke, also has made the Mets’ bullpen staff.
While several Indy players have received the disappointing news that they would not be in the majors on Opening Day despite outstanding spring training campaigns, as we reported in yesterday’s subscriber-only Independent Baseball Insider column, the additions of Rice and Burke help make up for it.
Rice was the final cut in spring training by the Los Angeles Dodgers one year ago, but he made a big impression on Mets Manager Terry Collins this spring. “He has a sinking fastball and he induced a lot of ground balls over the course of camp,” analyzed Baron. The Simi Valley, CA native, who pitched in the Atlantic League in 2008, 2009 and 2011, added a scoreless inning in New York’s 7-2 victory over St. Louis Friday afternoon.
During his long grind in the minor leagues, working exclusively in relief since 2005, Rice was in seven games (mostly ineffectively) with the Long Island (NY) Ducks in his first Atlantic League stint, did a little better with Newark, NJ a year later then helped York, PA to a league title two years ago when he had a 2.45 earned run average (1-0, one save) in 15 appearances.
Burke, who started his professional career with Atlantic City, NJ in the Atlantic League, later made it up to San Diego in ’09 for a time before injuries took a toll. He was in the Baltimore minor league system last year.
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