NEW YORK -- Since the final days of Spring Training, when Yankees officials told David Aardsma that he would not make the team despite pitching well enough to do so, the former closer has battled his share of frustration.
"You almost want to kick the door and just scream, 'I am ready, I'm healthy, give me a chance,'" Aardsma said by telephone on Monday after signing a Minor League deal with the Mets. "But there's hundreds of other guys out there wanting to do that, too. And so it's a matter of, how do you separate yourself? It's just going out there and doing it."
Since the Yankees granted Aardsma his unconditional release at the end of spring, he has been pitching for the Marlins' Triple-A New Orleans affiliate, posting a 2.57 ERA with 12 strikeouts and eight walks in 14 innings. But because he had not earned a promotion, he exercised the out clause in his contract last week.
Five days later, Aardsma officially became a member of the Mets. He will report to Triple-A Las Vegas, where a strong showing could earn him a quick promotion to the big leagues. The Mets entered Monday's game against the Reds ranked 29th in the Majors with a 4.77 bullpen ERA.
"You look at the roster and you see an opportunity, and you see an organization that gives opportunities," Aardsma said. "They told me that there's an opportunity here if I come in and pitch well."
Aardsma, 31, was one of the most accomplished closers in baseball from 2009-10, saving 69 games for the Mariners and recording a 2.90 ERA and 129 strikeouts in 121 innings. But hip surgery derailed his career the following winter, and he tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow while rehabbing from that operation. He appeared in one game for the Yankees last summer but did not make the club this spring.
Reporting to Las Vegas and having regained most of his low- to mid-90s velocity, he could give the Mets a late-game dimension that only Bobby Parnell currently provides.
"That call is always up to the organization," Aardsma said. "But personally, I felt like I was ready coming out of Spring Training. I definitely pitched well enough to make the Yankees, and they even told me so. I was kind of in the wrong place at the wrong time. But I felt like I was ready then … and the ball is coming out great. I just need to prove myself a little bit more."
Murphy maintains top spot in lineup
NEW YORK -- Seeking some sort of production out of the first spot in his lineup, manager Terry Collins solicited advice following Saturday's loss in Chicago. Bench coach Bob Geren presented the winning suggestion, revisiting an idea that the team had broached several times in recent years: Daniel Murphy, leadoff man.
"I said, 'OK, but we've got to have somebody hitting behind him,'" Collins said.
That assignment initially went to Justin Turner, who was in Sunday's lineup with the Mets facing a left-handed pitcher. On Monday, Collins went with a more unorthodox choice, slotting Rick Ankiel behind Murphy.
Ankiel offers an interesting dynamic because he possesses more power than a typical second hitter, but he also has a much higher propensity for strikeouts. Then again, Murphy is already an atypical leadoff man thanks to his streaky hitting and lack of speed.
At this point the Mets are willing to try any configuration that works.
"He's a veteran guy," Collins said of Ankiel. "He certainly should know how to handle some things in the second hole."
Moving Murphy to the leadoff spot paid immediate dividends for the Mets, who watched him launch a go-ahead homer in the eighth inning of Sunday's game, a 4-3 win over the Cubs. As a result, he will stay there until "someone else steps forward and says he should be the leadoff guy by getting on base and scoring runs."
"I think Dan Murphy's a good hitter," Collins said. "I think if you hit him fifth, he's still going to be a good hitter and probably drive some runs in for you. But I sure like the fact that he gets on base the way he does with David [Wright] coming up. David's shown with runners in scoring position, he'll drive them in."
Davis moved to sixth in batting order
NEW YORK -- Ike Davis' rope with the Mets may extend indefinitely, but his run as the cleanup hitter has come to an end.
Manager Terry Collins bumped Davis to sixth in the lineup on Monday, marking the first time in more than a week he has hit anywhere other than fourth against a right-handed pitcher. Collins had promised Davis a full week's worth of starts at the cleanup spot in those situations, but nothing beyond that, so when the week ended with Davis in a 1-for-30 funk, so did the experiment.
"He didn't have a real good week," Collins said. "He's still here. We still need to play him. So I took him out of the fourth spot because Lucas [Duda] is actually swinging very good."
General manager Sandy Alderson did say over the weekend that a Minor League demotion for Davis is not imminent, but until he starts hitting, he will continue to hit lower in the lineup.
Davis will join Yankees reliever David Robertson in hosting the Players Trust All-Star golf tournament on Bethpage Black in Farmingdale, N.Y., on July 17. Proceeds will benefit Superstorm Sandy recovery and relief efforts.
Said Davis: "It's only fitting that the baseball-playing community use this as an opportunity to assist the thousands of people in the area impacted by the storm."
More information is available at www.mlb.com/pa/trust/allstar_golf.jsp.