Pitcher batting practice is awesome

Before the rain set in, the Mets’ starting pitchers that didn’t travel today took batting practice on Field 2 in Port St. Lucie.

The group — Johan Santana, R.A. Dickey, Mike Pelfrey, Jeurys Familia, Chris Schwinden and Miguel Batista — split into two teams. They took turns in the batter’s box as coach Guy Conti fired baseballs through a pitching machine. They vaguely simulated a game, with Conti serving both as the ump and the judge of each outcome based on the batted balls, both teams in a messy half-circle around the batting cage hooting and jeering after every swing.

The players argued every fly-ball to the outfield was a double. Conti was generous with some, but reasonable. When he made a call that didn’t go the hitter’s way, the hitter griped — none moreso than the very jovial Santana. Johan Santana has won 133 games and made over $100 million playing baseball, and he still really wanted to win some stupid quasi-game on a back field in Spring Training and appeared to be having a hell of a lot of fun in the process.

At some point, David Wright, Danny Herrera, Tim Byrdak and Frank Francisco wandered over. A few times, Conti deferred to their judgment on hits. After Familia ripped a line drive down the third-base line, the players debated whether Wright would have made the play.

Batista smacked what might have been a walk-off home run to left center. It audibly hit the base of a fence, but it was difficult to tell from the batting cage if it hit the home-run fence or a shorter one a few feet behind it. Herrera called it a home run, but after some debate Conti decided the game should continue for another inning, and no one complained.

Everyone took another turn in the cage. A few more fly balls were called doubles, a few more bunts were laid down, one team — I’m not even sure which — was named the victor — and, just before the rain started, all the pitchers spread around the field to collect the baseballs.

This all means nothing, of course. Baseball is just awesome, is all.

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