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Sports Patrick Mazeika getting to know Mets’ pitching staff on the fly English Headline

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Patrick Mazeika can be forgiven if, as he says, he hasn’t exactly paid much attention to his status as cult hero for his penchant for improbably clutch at-bats.

Aside from not wanting to get caught up in tooting his own horn, the Mets catcher has had to use most of his time learning and adjusting to a new pitching staff on the fly.

Mazeika, who was called up from Triple-A Syracuse last Friday when James McCann landed on the injured list with a broken hamate, spent that first game in the dugout with Chris Bassitt, whom he caught for the first time Saturday night. He did the same thing with Max Scherzer on Tuesday night before catching him for the first time on Wednesday against the Cardinals.

“More just getting to know what he’s trying to do,” Mazeika said of watching the game with Bassitt. “There might be three or four right pitches for him for that situation. Trying to figure out what he wants to do is always a unique challenge. But it ended up working out pretty well in the end.”

Patrick Mazeika celebrates with Edwin Diaz after a recent Mets’ win over the Mariners.
Corey Sipkin

The battery had a visible struggle to get on the same page early, with plenty of shaking off and Bassitt often stepping off the rubber to go through signs again. But Bassitt said afterward it was important to get the calls right, even if it “looks ugly.”

“New catcher, new pitcher, there’s always a learning curve and there’s always a time,” Bassitt said Wednesday. “But most of the time, it’s in spring training. Sometimes, unfortunately, it’s in the season and that’s part of it.”

Mazeika did get to work with a lot of the Mets’ current pitchers, though not all of them, during spring training. He also worked behind the plate for 24 games (18 starts) last season, though of the 22 pitchers he caught, only five of them are currently on the Mets’ active roster (plus the injured Tylor Megill).

During the Mets’ most recent road trip, Mazeika was also on the club’s taxi squad, affording him the opportunity to get familiar with most of the relievers by catching them in the bullpen.

“Luckily I was around most of the guys, so it was only kind of getting to know two or three guys about how they like to pitch, what they like to do setup-wise, where their strengths might match up with some of these hitters’ weaknesses — and just seeing their actual pitches,” said Mazeika, who hit a game-winning home run Saturday, a year after a pair of memorable walk-off fielder’s choices.

McCann underwent surgery on Tuesday, with an expected timeline for return of about six weeks. That means there will be more starts to go around for Mazeika as he backs up Tomas Nido, who along with McCann has been helpful in giving his fellow backstop a crash course on the pitching staff.

“It’s very obvious that all of our guys have really embraced the other side of the game other than hitting,” manager Buck Showalter said. “It’s very important to them about the pitch-calling, the presentation of pitches. … You can tell there’s a real connection with all our catchers about trying to bring what the pitchers need.”

As much as Mazeika has talked to the pitchers he hadn’t worked with before and caught their bullpen sessions between starts, though, the best way to build that rapport comes through actually getting in-game reps, Bassitt said.

“The first thing is where you want the targets on all the pitches,” Bassitt said. “The sequencing and what pitches you want to throw in what counts is kind of hard, but overall, it’s just where you want the targets for the pitches. We can call our own game after that and then he’ll kind of learn as he goes on — if we shake this pitch, we want that pitch, so to speak.”



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